February 10th, 2016
woman with lazy eye close up

Amblyopia, commonly known as lazy eye, is a condition where vision in one of the eyes is reduced because the eye and the brain are not working together properly. The visual loss in amblyopia cannot be corrected by just wearing glasses. Amblyopia is the most common cause of visual impairment during childhood. The condition affects approximately 2 to 3 out of every 100 children. It is thought to develop early in life during the critical period of visual development. Unless it is successfully treated in early childhood, amblyopia usually persists into adulthood and is the most common cause of monocular (one eye) visual impairment among children and young and middle-aged adults.

What Causes Amblyopia?


Strabismus, which is an imbalance in the positioning of the two eyes, is the most common cause of amblyopia. Strabismus can cause crossed eye (esotropia) or turn out (exotropia).

Anisometropic Amblyopia

This condition is caused by a refractive error when light is not focused correctly as it travels through the eye. A child with this condition will be more farsighted or nearsighted in one eye. Amblyopia develops in the affected eye.

Deprivation Amblyopia

This is the least common form. It occurs when one eye is prevented from seeing and becomes weaker.

Other causes of amblyopia include childhood cataracts, nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. There is often a family history of this condition.

What are Amblyopia Symptoms?

The amblyopia symptoms include:

  • Eyes that turn in or out
  • Eyes that do not appear to work together
  • Inability to judge depth correctly
  • Poor vision in one eye

How Is Amblyopia Diagnosed?

Amblyopia is usually easily diagnosed with a complete examination of the eyes. Special tests are usually not needed.

What is the Treatment for Amblyopia?

In general, the earlier the child has the condition for the development of amblyopia the worse it may become. Similarly, the earlier the treatment is started, the better the opportunity to reverse vision loss. Before treating amblyopia, it may be necessary to first treat the underlying cause. Many children do not recognize they have a vision problem because their stronger eye compensates for the weaker eye. If the weaker eye progressively gets worse, an amblyopic eye develops.

Lazy eye treatment often treats an underlying eye problem and specifically targets the affected eye. Glasses are commonly prescribed to improve focusing or misalignment of the eyes. Surgery may be performed on the eye muscles to straighten the eyes if non-surgical means are unsuccessful. Surgery can help in the treatment of amblyopia by allowing the eyes to work together better. Eye exercises and vision therapy may also be recommended either before or after surgery to correct faulty visual habits associated with strabismus and to teach comfortable use of the eyes.

Getting the Lazy Eye to Work

Following treatment of the underlying cause, an eye patch may be required for a period of time. The better-seeing eye is patched, forcing the weak eye to work, thereby strengthening its vision. Eye drops or ointment may also be used to blur the vision of the good eye in order to force the weaker one to work. This method, however, is generally a less successful approach than eye patching.

About ICON Eyecare

ICON Eyecare is a leading surgical and medical eye care provider based out of Denver, CO. Since 1999, ICON has been building a Center of Ophthalmology Excellence empowered by an expert team of board-certified physician specialists, the most advanced laser technology and a culture of quality and extraordinary patient care. In coordination with referring optometrists and physicians, ICON Eyecare specializes in treating patients with cataracts, advanced forms of glaucoma and other age and disease-related conditions, while providing innovative options for patients seeking LASIK and cosmetic eye procedures. With 14 patient care centers located in Colorado and Texas, ICON Eyecare is expanding within the broader western U.S. region. For more information, please call (720) 524-1001, or visit

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