Lazy Eye in Children: Causes and Treatment

    Lazy Eye in Children: Causes and Treatment

    Amblyopia, usually referred to as “lazy eye,” is a common condition among babies and kids. What causes lazy eye in children, and how can it be corrected?

    Amblyopia, defined

    Amblyopia happens when one of the eyes has reduced vision because it didn’t develop properly. Since the weaker eye has poorer vision, the brain “ignores” it and over time, only learns to work with the stronger eye. Although rare, it’s also possible for amblyopia to affect both eyes.

    The earlier your child gets treatment for lazy eye, the better. According to experts, the brain and eyes are still learning to work together from age 1 to 7. That’s why if you treat amblyopia during that stage, the chance that he or she will develop normal vision increases.

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    Causes of lazy eye in children

    Amblyopia can develop due to other eye-related problems like:

    Strabismus

    Strabismus, which we often refer to as “duling” or “banlag” occurs when the eyes are not working together. In other words, they are misaligned or not “looking” in the same direction.

    When one eye focuses straight ahead while the other one can move to the left, right, up, or down, the misaligned eye is often weaker. Over time, the brain ignores the images sent by the weaker and deviating eye, that’s why it becomes lazy.

    Note: Some people use lazy eye and strabismus interchangeably, but please note that they are not the same.

    lazy eye in children

    Refractive errors

    Another possible cause of lazy eye in children is a refractive error, which occurs when the eyes do not bend the light correctly, causing blurry vision. When one of the eyes experiences a more severe refractive error, it can also become amblyopic.

    Children can experience any of the following types of refractive errors:

    • Myopia or nearsightedness, when they cannot see clearly unless the object is close to their eyes.
    • Hyperopia or farsightedness, when they cannot see clearly unless the object is far from their eyes.
    • Astigmatism, when they see blurry images.

    Cataracts

    Cataracts occur when the eyes’ normally transparent lens is cloudy. If your child is born with a cataract on one eye, the brain might also ignore it, causing a lazy eye.

    Ptosis

    Ptosis is another condition that interferes with a child’s vision.

    Also called “droopy eyelid,” ptosis happens when one or both of the upper eyelids are lower than normal. Since the droopy eyelid interferes with a child’s vision (it blocks a portion of the visual field), the brain may not work with the affected eye, leading to amblyopia.

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    Risk factors for amblyopia in children

    Besides the above-mentioned causes, note that the following factors also increase a child’s risk of developing amblyopia:

    • Family history of lazy eye
    • Developmental delay
    • Premature birth
    • Genetic conditions, like Down Syndrome
    • Craniofacial disorders

    Treatment of lazy eye in children

    The goal of treating amblyopia includes:

    • Correcting the condition that causes lazy eye
    • Force the brain to recognize the signals coming from the weaker eye; usually, this means making the child use their lazy eye.
    • Make the eyes work together.

    Common treatment options are:

    Eye patch

    One of the most common ways to treat lazy eye in children is to have them wear an eye patch to cover the stronger eye. This way, they will be forced to use the weaker eye, which may strengthen in the long run.

    Eye drops

    In some instances, the doctor may opt for eye drops that blur the stronger eye’s vision. As a result, the child will be forced to see things using their lazy eye.

    Eyeglasses

    Finally, the doctor may decide on eyeglasses that can correct the refractive error, allowing the brain to recognize the clear image coming from both eyes.

    Reminders

    Even if you suspect lazy eye in your child, please don’t make them wear an eye patch without consulting an eye doctor.

    Only the doctor can diagnose their vision problems and decide on treatment strategies. They will also be able to tell you how often and for how long your child needs to wear or use an eye patch, drops, or glasses.

    Learn more about Other Child Health Issues here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Sources

    Amblyopia: What Is Lazy Eye?
    https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/amblyopia-lazy-eye
    Accessed January 6, 2021

    Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)
    https://www.chop.edu/conditions-diseases/amblyopia-lazy-eye
    Accessed January 6, 2021

    Amblyopia | Diagnosis & Treatment
    https://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/a/amblyopia/diagnosis-and-treatment
    Accessed January 6, 2021

    Amblyopia
    https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/amblyopia.html
    Accessed January 6, 2021

    Lazy eye (amblyopia)
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lazy-eye/symptoms-causes/syc-20352391
    Accessed January 6, 2021

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    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated May 19, 2021
    Medically reviewed by Victor Paulino, MD, DPBO