Page header image

Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)

What is lazy eye?

Lazy eye is reduced vision that happens when one or both eyes do not develop normal sight during early childhood. It is also called amblyopia.

If this problem is found and treated early, normal vision may develop in both eyes. After the age of 8 years, treatment for amblyopia is less successful. If treatment does not take place early, the lazy eye may never see as well as the stronger eye.

What is the cause?

Normally, both eyes work together to send pictures to the brain. The brain blends the two pictures into a single, clear picture. If pictures from each eye are different, the brain ignores the picture from one eye to avoid confusion. Over time your child may not be able to see as well out of one eye. Your child's eyes may not work together because:

  • The eyes are not pointing in the same direction.
  • The size or shape of your child’s eyeball causes light to focus in the wrong place at the back of the eye.
  • Your child was born with cataracts or other eye conditions that affect the sight in one or both eyes.
  • Your child has eyelid problems that keep his eyes from opening all the way.

What are the symptoms?

Babies often do not show any symptoms of amblyopia. However, they may have trouble following an object with their eyes or may have crossed eyes. Toddlers may favor one eye. They may get fussy when the strong eye is covered but not the other. Older children may complain of eye pain, watery eyes, or headaches. If you suspect there is something wrong with your child's eyes at any age, talk to your healthcare provider. Most of the time, amblyopia is found during a well child visit or a vision exam at school.

How is it diagnosed?

An eye care provider can diagnose amblyopia by watching how your child follows objects with his eyes or by watching your baby’s movements when one eye is covered.

How is it treated?

Treatment usually starts by putting a patch over the eye that has better vision. This treatment forces your child to use the weaker eye for close up work or reading, which will strengthen that eye over time. The patch may need to be used for several hours a day over several months or even years.

Other treatments may include eye drops, glasses or contact lenses.

Your eye care provider will also treat any vision problems that may have caused the amblyopia.

How can I take care of my child?

Follow the full course of treatment your healthcare provider prescribes. Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities your child should avoid and when he can return to his normal activities
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.

Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site:
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.3 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-03-01
Last reviewed: 2014-10-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
Page footer image