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Lazy Eye (Amblyopia): Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis And Treatment

Lazy eye, also termed as amblyopia is a vision development disorder mainly developed during childhood. In this disorder, the vision of one of the eyes does not develop fully as the brain focuses only on the normal eye, ignoring the one that doesn't function well or is a 'lazy' eye.

Poor vision in one eye takes place when there's a breakdown of nerve cells in that particular area. The nerves are unable to mature properly, hence making the sight unrecognisable for the brain. Amblyopia usually develops between birth until the age of seven. It is prevalent in 1 out of every 50 children. Take a look at its details.

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Causes Of Lazy Eye

The most common cause of lazy eye is a squint. It is a condition in which both the eyes are not aligned together, meaning one eye will look straight while the other will look either up, down or to the side.

In such cases, both the eyes may take completely different images and send them to the brain. To avoid doubling of the images, the brain blocks the signals from the weaker eye, hence relying just on one eye to see. [1]

The cause of abnormality in one eye is the disruption of the nerves behind the eyes which help in sending signals to the brain. There are multiple causes of nerves disruption. The common causes are:

  • Genetics
  • Damage to one eye due to accident or trauma
  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Crossed eyes
  • Dropping of the eyelid in one of the eyes
  • Corneal ulcer
  • Scar in the eyes
  • Eye conditions such as myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism, also known as refractive amblyopia
  • Deprivation amblyopia (cataract in children)
  • Different visions in both the eyes

Symptoms Of Lazy Eye

  • Squinting eyes (both eyes look in different directions) [2]
  • Poor depth perception, not able to perceive how far a person or thing is
  • Head tilting, to eliminate creating a double image
  • Wandering eye
  • Shutting of the weaker eye

Risk Factors For Lazy Eye

Children under age seven are at higher risk of developing lazy eye due to:

  • Premature birth [3]
  • Family history
  • Low birth weight compared to normal ones
  • Developmental problems

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Complications Of Lazy Eye

Lazy eye is best to be treated at an early stage. If the condition continues for long, it may cause permanent vision loss or blindness of the weaker eye. [4]


Diagnosis Of Lazy Eye

Lazy eye can be diagnosed best at home. If you see any of the aforementioned symptoms in your child, test their eye by the following methods:

  • Cover the one eye and see whether the child feels discomfort or not.
  • Check with mentors if the child has vision difficulties in school.
  • Signs of fatigue after homework.
  • Tilting the head while watching television

Other tests include:

  • Vision screening: In this method, eyes are examined and tested using various techniques, considering the age of the child. [5]
  • Slit-lamp microscope: To observe detailing of eyes and detect cataract or other abnormalities.

Treatment Of Lazy Eye

Treatment of lazy eye should start as early as possible. The methods include:

  • Prescribed glasses: Correct eyewear can help in improving the vision problems such as myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism that causes lazy eye. The glasses should be worn all the time. Prescribed lenses are also the best option.
  • Surgery: Removal of cataract, if it is the cause of lazy eye.
  • Eyelid surgery: The method is considered when dropping eyelid is the cause of lazy eye. In the surgery, it is lifted for the proper vision.
  • Eye patch: This method involves wearing an eye patch in the stronger or dominant eye probably for an hour or two. In this way, the vision remains balanced in both the eyes, making the brain to use the weaker eye as well. [6]

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Common FAQs

1. Can you fix a lazy eye?

Ans. Though fixing a lazy eye at childhood is considered beneficial, it can be fixed at any age due to the advancement in neuroscience. The treatment method during childhood includes prescribed glasses, eye patching, surgery and some therapies such as eye exercises.

2. Can you fix a lazy eye in adults?

Ans. Treatment of lazy eye in adults is not offered usually. This is because there's a particular age up to which the treatment methods work. Patching therapy is considered useful until the age of 12 while surgery is demonstrated good up to the age of 17.

Story first published: Friday, May 15, 2020, 11:57 [IST]