What is a Lazy eye and how can you treat it?
A lazy eye, also known as amblyopia, is a condition which typically develops during childhood. It occurs when there is disruption in the normal development of the vision, which leads to reduced vision in one eye. When the brain and eye do not work together effectively, it causes the affected eye to become ‘lazy’ or not able to function properly. If a lazy eye is left untreated, it may cause temporary or permanent loss of vision. At the same time, both depth of perception and 3D vision may get affected.
Causes and risk factors
A lazy eye can have several causes including:
- Strabismus (crossed eyes) is the misalignment of eyes where one eye may turn inwards or outwards. The brain may suppress the image of the misaligned eye to avoid seeing double and hence leading to the development of a lazy eye.
- Refractive errors (myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism): Unequal eye prescription between both eyes can cause the brain to favour the eye with better vision causing the other eye to be ‘lazy’.
- Visual deprivation: Conditions that obstruct or block vision in one eye such as cataracts, ptosis (droopy eyelid) or trauma to the eye can lead to a lazy eye.
Symptoms of a lazy eye
- Reduced vision in one eye that cannot be corrected by glasses or contact lenses
- Poor depth perception which makes it hard to judge distances
- Children will usually squint or close one eye to improve the vision
- Tilting or turning the head to one side may be a compensatory mechanism to improve vision
- Poor eye coordination can occur
- Hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills are affected making tasks like tying shoelaces or threading a needle more difficult
The following diagnostic eye tests can be performed to assess a lazy eye:
- Visual acuity test: Measures the clarity of vision in each eye
- Refraction test: Determines the level of refractive errors in each eye
- Eye alignment and movement assessment
- Visual function tests including depth perception, colour vision and visual field test
Treatment options for a lazy eye includes:
Corrective lenses: Glasses or contact lenses may be recommended to correct any refractive errors and help improve vision in the lazy eye.
Patching therapy: The stronger eye is being patched to force the brain to use and strengthen the weaker eye. This helps to stimulate visual development in the lazy eye.
Vision therapy: A series of exercises and activities designed to improve visual skills and coordination between both eyes.
Treatment of underlying conditions: If a lazy eye is caused by underlying conditions such as strabismus or cataracts, then surgery or other interventions may be necessary.
Lifestyle and supportive measures
- Consistent patching to ensure the stronger eye is being patched to encourage the use of the weaker eye.
- Engage in near and distance activities to help in improving visual skills and coordination between both eyes.
- Create a visually stimulating environment that encourages the use of the weaker eye including the use of colourful toys, books or games that require visual engagement
- Limit screen time and have adequate lighting
- Inform teachers and caregivers to provide support including arrangement of seats in class, written materials in bigger fonts and allow extra time for visual tasks.