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Lazy Eye: What Is It And How Is It Treated?

Lazy eye or amblyopia is a problem that affects the vision in one eye. It occurs when the eye and brain don't work together properly, leading to impaired visual development. The eye may look normal but doesn't see as well as it should.

Lazy Eye: What Is It And How Is It Treated?

Lazy eye or amblyopia is a problem that affects the vision in one eye. It occurs when the eye and brain don't work together properly, leading to impaired visual development. The eye may look normal but doesn't see as well as it should.

What Causes Lazy Eye (amblyopia)?

There are several causes of amblyopia, but the most common is when one eye is not used as much as the other. This can happen if:

  • One eye has much better vision than the other. For example, if one eye is nearsighted and the other farsighted.
  • One eye turns in or out while the other eye looks straight ahead. This is called strabismus, which, if left untreated, can lead to amblyopia.
  • A cataract or some other problem keeps light from getting through to the eye.

Many of the causes of amblyopia can be treated successfully if found early. 

How Common Is It? 

Amblyopia is the most common cause of decreased vision in children. It occurs in about 2-3% of the population. Usually, only one eye is affected, but sometimes both eyes can be amblyopic. When this happens, it is called ” bilateral amblyopia.”

Is My Child at Risk?

Anyone can get amblyopia, but it is most common in children. Amblyopia in children affects approximately 3% of kids in the United States. Some are at a higher risk, such as:

  • Premature babies
  • Babies born smaller than average
  • A family history of amblyopia 

All children should have regular vision screenings before their fourth birthday. If amblyopia is found early during this critical period, treatment can start immediately, and the child’s vision can often be fully restored. 

Types of Amblyopia

There are three main types of amblyopia, and all three can lead to decreased vision in one or both eyes:

  1. Anisometropic Amblyopia
  2. Strabismic Amblyopia
  3. Deprivation Amblyopia 

Anisometropic Amblyopia

The most common type of amblyopia is anisometropic amblyopia, also called refractive amblyopia. Refractive amblyopia is usually caused by high astigmatism but can be caused by high levels of near/farsightedness also. One eye may be much more nearsighted than the other. As a result, the eye with the more severe refractive error (the “lazy eye”) doesn’t focus light correctly on the retina, which can lead to amblyopia.

Strabismic Amblyopia

Strabismic amblyopia, also called “tropia,” is caused by a misalignment of the eyes. If one eye turns in or out while the other eye looks straight ahead, it’s called strabismus. Strabismus can occur at any age, but it’s most common in young children.

Deprivation Amblyopia

The third type of amblyopia is deprivation amblyopia, caused by anything that blocks or deprives the eye of light. This can include congenital cataracts and drooping of the upper eyelid. Amblyopia ex anopsia is a type of deprivation amblyopia that occurs when the eyelid droops and covers part of the eye. This can cause amblyopia because it blocks light from entering the eye.

The most common cause of deprivation amblyopia is cataracts. A cataract is a cloudy area in the eye’s lens that blocks or filters light before reaching the retina and can lead to blurry vision. A congenital cataract develops at birth or can develop later in life. 

What Are The Symptoms?

Most children with amblyopia don’t have any symptoms because they don’t know that they’re not seeing as well as they could. In fact, many kids and people with amblyopia don’t even realize they have a problem until they have a vision screening.

If your child has amblyopia, they may have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Squinting and blurred vision
  • Tilting or turning the head to use one eye more than the other
  • Eyes that look in different directions
  • Poor vision in one eye
  • Double vision
  • Poor depth perception 

Amblyopia can lead to vision loss if left untreated. So it’s vital to get regular eye exams if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms. 


If you suspect that you or your child has amblyopia, the first step is to schedule an appointment for an eye examination with an ophthalmologist or optometrist. The doctor will check your child’s vision and eye alignment during the exam. The doctor may also use a special instrument, called a retinoscope, to shine a light into the eye and evaluate how the light is being focused on the retina.

If amblyopia is found, treatment will be started right away. The earlier amblyopia is found and treated, the better the chances are for restoring normal vision.

Lazy Eye Treatments

The goal of amblyopia treatment is to improve vision in the affected eye and prevent further loss of vision. The most common treatments are:

  • Glasses and contact lenses. Glasses or contacts help by   correcting any refractive error and allowing the eye to focus light properly on the retina.
  • Eye patching. An eye patch is placed over the strong eye to force the weaker eye to work harder. The patch is usually worn for two to six hours a day and can improve visual acuity.
  • Surgery. In some cases, surgery may be needed to correct the misalignment of the eyes. The doctor will make a cut in the muscles that control eye movement and reposition them so that both eyes can focus on the same object.
  • Eye drops. Atropine eye drops temporarily paralyze the focus muscle of the strong eye. This forces the amblyopic eye to work harder and improves vision. The drops are usually used once a day.
  • Special exercises. Specific exercises help to retrain the eye muscles and improve vision. These exercises involve tracking a moving object with the eyes and focusing on near and far objects. The exercises are usually done two to three times a day for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Studies have shown that eye exercises alone are less effective than patching or atropine drops.

Helping Your Child With Treatment

Most children with amblyopia need to wear an eye patch for several hours a day. This can be hard for both you and your child. Here are some tips that may help treatment in children:

  • Start with a short amount of time. For example, try patching for one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon. You can then gradually increase the amount of time as your child gets used to it.
  • Use stickers or other fun materials to decorate the eye patch. This can help make patching more fun for your child.
  • Find activities that your child can do while wearing the eye patch. For example, they may be able to read, listen to music, or play video games.

Be supportive and positive. Explain to your child why it’s important to wear the eye patch. Let them know that you’re there to help them through the process.

Youth Vision – Your Optometrist In Denver

At Youth Vision, we are passionate about healthy vision! If you think you or your child may have amblyopia or any other eye problems, schedule an appointment with one of our skilled optometrists.

If you’re searching for an optometrist in Denver or an optometrist in Aurora, CO, call (303) 953-8801 to schedule an appointment, or visit one of our four locations:

Denver Youth Vision: 1400 Grove Street, Denver, CO 80204
Aurora Youth Vision: 14251 E. 6th Avenue, Aurora, CO 80011
Thornton Youth Vision: 7400 East Hampden Ave. Unit C1, Denver, CO 80231
Hampden Youth Vision: 550 E. Thornton Parkway, Suite 240A, Thornton, CO 80229