It’s a common misconception that a lazy eye is caused by not using one of your eyes. In reality, the cause is often due to asymmetrical brain development in infancy, leading to strabismus or misalignment of the eyes.
What is a lazy eye?
Lazy eye, or amblyopia, is not a problem with the eye but the connections to the brain. Most children who have this problem have an asymmetrical brain development which causes them to turn inward when focusing on anything up close- leading to what we call “strabismus,” which is the misalignment of the eyes.
Unfortunately, parents usually notice that their child has a lazy eye by age 4-5 when it’s harder to treat. This means that your child may not see as clearly with one eye as compared to the other.
Signs of lazy eye
Signs and symptoms of lazy eye include:
- An eye that wanders inward or outward
- Eyes that appear not to work together
- Poor depth perception
- Squinting or shutting an eye
- Head tilting
- Abnormal results of vision screening tests
Sometimes the lazy eye is not evident without an eye exam.
Causes of Lazy Eye
The lazy eye develops because of abnormal visual experience early in life that changes the nerve pathways between the retina and the brain. The weaker eye receives fewer visual signals. Eventually, the eyes’ ability to work together decreases and the brain suppresses or ignores input from the weaker eye.
The most common cause of lazy eyes is an imbalance in the muscles that position the eyes. This imbalance can cause the eyes to cross in or turn out and prevents them from working together.
An untreated lazy eye can cause permanent vision problems and even loss of vision. If you see signs of amblyopia, it is best to get it treated right away to save the child’s vision.
Treatment for Lazy Eye
The nerves and communication pathways that connect the eyes to the brain form in childhood. For this reason, lazy eye treatment is often most effective in children under the age of 7. The earlier treatment starts, the more likely you are to get good results. However, positive results can still be seen in teenagers.
There are several options to treat lazy eye. Most commonly would be corrective eyeglasses. There is also the option of eyepatches. Covering up the “good” eye with the patch forces the “bad” eye to become stronger, improving the vision in that eye.
As a last resort, the child may have to have surgery to fix the lazy eye. The doctor will go in and adjust the length or positioning of the eye muscles. If the child does have to have surgery, they may also have to add on additional treatment strategies, such as an eye patch, to help correct their vision.
Early diagnosis is important
If you suspect that your child may have a lazy eye, you should take them to an optometrist or ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam. The doctor will give you a recommended treatment plan designed specifically to address the underlying problem. You must start the treatment plan right away to save money and even your child’s vision.
MYTH: “Children outgrow crossed or misaligned eyes”
This couldn’t be further from the truth! Children do not outgrow crossed eyes. A child whose eyes are misaligned may develop poor vision. The straight or straighter of the two eyes become dominant, and the brain can “turn off” or ignore images from the weaker eye, and a lazy eye may develop. If left untreated, the unused or misaligned eye will not develop correctly and can affect the development of depth perception.
Lazy Eye is a condition that causes your child’s eyes not to work together. Lazy eye can be corrected with early detection and treatment, but it could lead to long-term vision problems or even blindness in one eye if left untreated. To prevent this from happening, schedule an appointment for your child at the first sign of lazy eye symptoms. You also want to educate yourself on common misconceptions about lazy eye, so you know what questions to ask during their next visit if they have any lingering concerns.