Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)

What is Amblyopia?

Amblyopia, often referred to as "lazy eye," is a condition that affects vision in one or both eyes. It occurs when the brain and the eye are not working together properly, leading to reduced vision in the affected eye. Amblyopia typically develops in early childhood, usually before the age of 7, and if left untreated, it can persist into adulthood.

Imagine your eyes are like a team of two players on a soccer field. They need to work together to score goals, but sometimes one player doesn't perform as well as the other. In the case of amblyopia:

  • Teamwork Problem: One of your eyes (let's call it the "lazy eye") isn't working as well as the other one or maybe the two eyes just aren't working together well. This can significantly affect depth perception and fine motor performance.

  • Brain Confusion: Your brain gets confused because it's receiving different signals from each eye. It relies more on the stronger eye to see clearly.

  • Weakened Eye: Over time, the "lazy eye" doesn't get enough practice, like a player who rarely gets to kick the ball. So, it becomes weaker and doesn't develop good vision.

  • Reduced Vision: Because your brain relies so much on the stronger eye, the vision in your "lazy eye" doesn't get better, and it stays blurry or less sharp, even with the proper glasses prescription.

Amblyopia can happen for various reasons, such as a difference in prescription between the eyes (Refractive Amblyopia) or a misalignment of the eyes (Strabismic Amblyopia). It's essential to diagnose and treat amblyopia early because, like a soccer player who practices regularly, the earlier it's addressed, the better chance your "lazy eye" has of improving its vision. That being said, even adults can see improvements in their amblyopic vision when properly treated with vision therapy.

​​​​​​​Treatment options may include wearing an eye patch over the stronger eye while doing home-based activities each day to encourage the "lazy eye" to work harder. In some cases, glasses may be prescribed to help improve vision and make it easier to use the amblyopic eye. If there is a large difference in the prescription between both eyes, a specialized lens called the "Shaw Lens" may be recommended. The Shaw Lens is designed to reduce image size differences between the eyes which helps both eyes work better as a team. In some cases, contact lenses can be a good option as well. In-office Optometric Vision therapy is often needed to train the "lazy eye", improve the coordination of the two eyes together (if there is a misalignment), and teach the brain to use both eyes as a coordinated team. Optometric Vision therapy can improve depth perception (3-D vision) at all distances. New research indicates that amblyopia can be treated at any age; however, it is always better to treat the patient when they are younger so it does not interfere with other aspects of development.