Lazy Eye (Amblyopia): Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Written By: Susannah Lockett

Strabismus, a misalignment of the eyes, is the most common cause of lazy eyes. The so-called “lazy eye” is weakened when the brain continues to ignore visual information coming from it in favor of the other eye.

The medical term for a lazy eye is amblyopia. It typically occurs early in life and is a visual developmental disorder. If untreated, it can result in poor permanent vision in the affected eye.

About 2 to 3 percent of the population shows signs of amblyopia. Babies are commonly born with strabismus, also called crossed eyes, and it is usually not a problem as long as the condition clears by three months of age.

After that, babies will need to be evaluated by an eye doctor for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Amblyopia Symptoms

1. Strabismus. If you notice crossed eyes in your child, make an appointment for them to see an eye doctor, preferably specializing in children’s eye disorders, right away.

2. Squinting

3. Poor depth perception

4. Eyes moving in different directions when the child tries to focus

Cover one of your child’s eyes while they’re doing a visual task to determine if amblyopia may be present. If the child objects when one eye is covered but doesn’t do so when the other one is, you may have discovered your child’s lazy eye.

The child will complain when you cover their good eye because vision from the lazy eye is blurry.

Causes of Lazy Eye

1. Strabismic amblyopia is the most common form of lazy eye. The brain ignores the double vision coming from the misaligned eye because it doesn’t make sense. It begins to favor the other eye’s logical information input.

2. Refractive amblyopia means that there is no eye misalignment, but instead, there are highly differing refractive errors in each eye. For example, one eye may be severely nearsighted, but the other is normal.

This can also occur if one eye is highly astigmatic while the other is not. The lazy eye develops because the brain disregards its distorted and fuzzy visual input.

3. Deprivation amblyopia may develop from something that prevents light from entering the child’s eye, such as congenital cataracts. Prompt treatment of such cataracts is necessary to avoid serious visual developmental problems.

Home Treatments for Amblyopia

Although surgery is sometimes necessary before home treatments can begin, many effective amblyopia treatments can be done at home. Patching, drops, and corrective eyeglasses are all possible home treatments.

Only your child’s eye doctor can diagnose amblyopia, prescribe treatment, and evaluate your child’s progress through regular eye exams.

Patching and Eyeglasses

Some cases of amblyopia only need eyeglasses for correction. Others will require patching. By covering the good eye, an eye patch forces the lazy eye to work harder. This also causes the brain to accept visual information from the weaker eye.

This, in turn, helps the lazy eye to develop more normally. Patching the lazy eye may require several weeks before it begins to respond, and wearing an eye patch for several hours daily or even all day may be necessary.

For children refusing to wear an eye patch or removing it as soon as you’re not looking, atropine drops may be a better solution. The eye drop is given once a day in the good eye and doesn’t require further supervision.

Atropine eye drops cause your child’s close-up vision to blur, forcing the lazy eye to work more.


Eye Drops

Eye drops containing a drug called atropine are an effective amblyopia treatment, especially for children from three to seven years old. Atropine is the active ingredient derived from the belladonna plant.

In Italian, belladonna means “beautiful lady.” This is because atropine causes the pupils to dilate, and in centuries past, dilated pupils were considered highly alluring. Ladies of this period would ingest belladonna as a beauty aid.

This was not safe. Atropine in high doses can be dangerous.

Today, doctors use atropine for eye exams and the treatment of amblyopia for the same reason: the dilation of the pupils.

In the case of amblyopia, dilating the pupil of the good eye makes the lazy eye work harder because the dilated good eye’s vision is somewhat compromised from the atropine. The idea is the same as using an eye patch.

Video Games

Video games and apps created for preschool, school-age children, and adults may help improve amblyopia with special exercises. These exercises are customized for each age group.

Vision Therapy

Some eye doctors specialize in this. Vision therapy may include prisms, filters, computer visual activities, balance boards, and metronomes.


Strabismic amblyopia may be treated by surgery followed by other treatment methods, such as eye drops and patching. In fact, in many cases of this type of lazy eye, surgery is necessary for other methods to be effective.

Strabismus surgery typically involves cutting, shortening, and repositioning of the eye muscles controlling eyeball movement. This helps the eyes to move together better and work as a team like they’re supposed to.

Can Bangs Cause Lazy Eyes?

There’s a myth that states that wearing long bangs over the eyes causes lazy eyes. However, this is not factual.

For long bangs to cause amblyopia, three things would have to happen:

1. The eye is completely obscured by the hair

2. These heavy bangs cover the eye constantly

3. The child is young enough to have their visual system still developing

Childhood Amblyopia

Observe your child for signs of lazy eye. Your child should have an eye exam at about six months of age and then again at age three to check for symptoms of strabismus and lazy eye. Early treatment is your child’s best chance for normal vision.

If your doctor diagnoses a lazy eye in your child, don’t be afraid to get involved. Ask your doctor about available treatments and observe your child at home to determine if these treatments are helping.

Find a Top Eye Doctor Near You

We’re available to help you find a top-rated eye doctor in your area. Let us help you find a great eye doctor right near you. Our professional staff will work with you to select the best eye doctor near you for your needs, and we’ll help you set the appointment, too. We look forward to speaking with you.

Published on: Apr 29, 2022
Last Updated:
Latest Articles