What Is Amblyopia?

Amblyopia is the scientific name for “lazy eye.” In the simplest of terms, amblyopia, or lazy eye, is an eye condition in which one eye develops better vision than the other. The “lazy eye” is the eye with poorer vision.

Amblyopia occurs during the development of the eyes in early childhood. One eye may develop stronger vision than the other. In rare cases, both eyes may be affected by amblyopia — a condition referred to as bilateral amblyopia.

Lazy eye is not an uncommon eye condition or cause of vision problems. According to geteyesmart.org, nearly three out of every 100 people are affected by amblyopia. Unequal focus in both eyes, refractive errors and cataracts may also lead to lazy eye.

While infants are born with the ability to see, their vision is not clear. As a baby’s eyes develop during the first months of life, vision should improve. Vision continues to change and develop into childhood. In order to see clearly, both eyes must develop equal vision. When this does not occur, lazy eye can set in.

Treatment of amblyopia is crucial in early childhood. If the condition is not treated, the lazy eye may develop a permanent defect, depth perception may be permanently lost and the child may grow into adulthood facing a lifetime of poor vision.

Refractive amblyopia may occur when refractive errors occur in both eyes, but to different degrees. In this case, the brain will typically compensate by only using vision from the good eye. Eyeglasses or contact lenses may be used to correct vision, allowing the eyes to work equally, thus avoiding the use of one eye over the other.

There are some risk factors of amblyopia, including:

  • misaligned eyes
  • severe nearsightedness or farsightedness
  • unequal vision
  • family history
  • premature birth or low birth weight
  • droopy eyelid or another condition that may prevent light from correctly
    entering the eye

Parents should be on the lookout for symptoms of lazy eye, including:

  • poor vision
  • tilting the head or closing one eye to see clearly
  • poor depth perception
  • one eye wandering toward the inside or outside of the eye

If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor immediately. Amblyopia is best treated during childhood and becomes more difficult to treat with age.