Early diagnosis and treatment for a lazy eye are important in order to treat the condition successfully. We’d recommend you take your child for an eye examination from about the age of four to look out for any signs. If you have any concerns about your child’s eyesight, or you’d like to know more about your lazy eye, pop in and see us.
What is lazy eye?
A lazy eye, also known as amblyopia, is quite a common condition in children and happens when vision hasn’t fully developed, usually in one eye. For various reasons, vision development in children might not take place properly, so those strong links with the brain needed for us to see clearly aren’t quite there yet.
Lazy eye symptoms
There are many signs and symptoms that help identify lazy eye, however quite often it is only picked up at a full eye examination.
- An eye that wanders inward or outward
- Poor depth perception
- Squinting or shutting an eye
- Titling of the head
It can be difficult without an eye test to tell if a child has a lazy eye, particularly if they’re too little to tell you what their vision is like. One way to tell is to cover one eye at a time – you may find that they’re quite happy having one covered but might push your hand away if you cover their ‘good’ eye.
Lazy eye causes
Lazy eye in children
Most instances of lazy eyes develop when we are children. All of us are born with very poor vision, but it steadily develops through childhood until about the age of eight. It’s important for the brain to receive clear images from the eyes during childhood in order to the build the strong connections we need for good vision. For some children with a lazy eye, these connections aren’t made properly which results in one eye being permanently blurry, even with glasses or contact lenses.
A lazy eye in children can be caused by:
- Very long or short sight in one eye
- A squint – a condition where the eye muscles do not work properly, and one eye looks inwards or outwards
A problem with light entering the eye, for example with a congenital cataract
Lazy eye treatments
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of a lazy eye, but it is usually treatable. in young children.
If the lazy eye is caused by very short or long sight in one eye, glasses may be prescribed in order to correct the focus, usually with patches. The healthy eye will be covered with a patch, to allow the independent use of the lazy eye. This will be a gradual process, over many months.
If the lazy eye is caused by a problem with light entering the eye, such as a cataract, then that condition will need to be treated.
Lazy eye treatment is most effective in children under 8 years old, as it gets a bit more difficult to treat as they get older. So it’s important to get a lazy eye checked sooner rather than later for the best chance of successful treatment
Lazy eye diagnosis
A lazy eye is diagnosed through an eye examination. The earlier the diagnosis, the easier it is to treat, so we’d recommend taking your child to screen their vision when they’re 3, 4 or 5 to check the overall health of their eyes, including whether they might have a lazy eye.
School eye screening may not pick up less severe lazy eyes, so it’s best to have a full eye examination. Don’t forget that all children under-16 receive an NHS-funded eye test.
If you have any concerns about your child’s eyesight or you’d like to know more about your own lazy eye, you should visit your optometrist.