What is a Lazy Eye?

We have all heard about a “lazy eye”, but do we really know what that means? It does not necessarily refer to an eye that always turns, and you would probably be surprised to learn of many people you know that actually have one lazy eye.

The official term for lazy eye is “Amblyopia” which is defined as decreased vision in one or both eyes without detectable anatomic damage to the retina or visual pathways. This condition is usually uncorrectable by eyeglasses or contact lenses.

The thing with amblyopia is that the eye may still function, just not in correlation with the other eye. Amblyopia may be the number one reason to have a childs eyes checked as early as possible, because if it is caught early enough, there is hope for correction.

The eyes and brain must develop their communicative pathways by about age 5 to 8, or they never will. So, when amblyopia is discovered early enough, measures can be taken.

Usually this is as simple as patching the good eye and forcing the amblyopic eye to develop to the best of its ability. How well it will develop is on a case per case basis. And don’t worry, patching the good eye can not have a detrimental effect on the good eyes development.

So in short, a lazy eye is one that does not see as well as the other eye and it is rooted in developmental issues between the eyes and the brain.

The term “lazy eye” came about because eyes maintain their position by focusing. So if an amblyopic eye can not fixate or focus, it tends to drift; ie. Lazy Eye.

This drifting can sometimes be alleviated through the use of contact lenses or glasses. In many cases muscle surgery can be performed to help re-align the eyes.

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