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What is a 'Lazy Eye'?

What is a 'Lazy Eye'?

What exactly is a lazy eye?

A Lazy eye occurs when the brain receives different images from each eye, and consequently ignores one image. The other eye is 'switched off' to avoid confusion.  In some cases the 'switching off' is so strong that the child can no longer see well with the weaker eye even when the good eye is closed. Some children with one weaker eye manage to avoid this by learning to switch attention from eye to eye thereby developing vision in both.

There are many causes of lazy eye. In most cases it is the result of delayed development in the vision of an eye.  Lazy eye occurs in childhood and often remains throughout life unless treated.

Lazy eye should not be confused with just a need for glasses.  A person with a lazy eye can still experience poor vision despite the best spectacle correction being supplied.

Causes of Lazy Eye

There are two main causes of lazy eye - strabismus, also known as turned eye and uncorrected vision defects.

Strabismus is where a child's eyes do not align simultaneously or one or both eyes turn in, out, up or down.  This condition requires treatment; it cannot be outgrown. 

Uncorrected vision defects can also contribute to the development of a lazy eye. If your child's prescription is uncorrected they may never see clearly. If their vision is never clear then your child never learns to use the full potential of their eyes and may end up with a lazy eye.

Some children require a very strong prescription in one eye but have normal sight in the other. The constant blurred vision in the weaker eye again prevents the normal development of vision in that eye.  These children seem to function normally until the good eye is covered and the lazy eye is forced to see.


Treatment of Lazy Eye

Treatment of lazy eye is best done as early as possible. Vision therapy with older children is often far less successful than the same therapy with younger children. If the need for glasses is the only problem then it is not uncommon to see a spontaneous return to good vision in the lazy eye. Some eyes need more intensive therapy, including patching of the good eye to force the weaker eye to learn to see.

The likelihood of a lazy eye developing can easily be determined during an eye examination. Remember, the earlier the problem is identified, the better the outcome. Your child should have their eyes examined before the age of three to four years. Lazy eye often runs in Families. Children with a family history of eye problems should be examined at an earlier age.

Vision deficiencies can affect a child's overall growth and development.  Make an appointment for your child with a behavioural optometrist by calling us on 9792 3077