Can An Eye Be "Lazy"?

Posted on May 07, 2017

Can An Eye Be "Lazy"?

By: Jeffrey Colburn, MD

We often see new children in the office to evaluate them for "Lazy Eye". The first thing we have to do is narrow down to exactly what the concern is. "Lazy eye" is really a meaningless term as different people use it to describe so many different things, such as a wandering or crossed eye, squinting or a droopy eyelid, or an eye that does not see well.

Whether or not the child has Amblyopia is our biggest concern. Amblyopia is a medical eye condition where the brain has essentially turned off or ignored an eye during early childhood due to some factor interfering with vision development. This could happen because of eye misalignment (eye wandering or crossing), a higher need for glasses in one eye, or something actually blocking the vision such as a droopy eyelid, a scar on the surface of the eye, or a cataract (Yes! Cataracts can happen even in children).

It is important to catch amblyopia as early as possible when it can still be reversed with treatment. After the age of 8-10 it becomes more difficult to recover sight and vision loss will likely be permanent. We treat amblyopia effectively with either eye patching over or blurring drops in the good eye to make the brain use the "weaker" eye. Since the eye itself is usually normal and should be able to see, we are actually treating the brain itself with these methods. There are some exciting new potential treatments currently being researched that may allow us to help improve vision in amblyopic eyes in even older children in the future.

If you or your child's doctor have any concerns for amblyopia or any of those items that might lead to amblyopia, make an appointment and come in to get those eyes checked out! Also, if there is a family history of any of these conditions, it is also worth getting a check in early childhood as there can be a higher risk for other family members.