Eye Department

Amblyopia (Introduction)

What is amblyopia? (Lazy eye)

Eyesight develops from birth until a child is about six years of age.  If one eye sees a blurred picture the vision does not develop properly because the necessary connections in the brain are not being made.  If your child needs glasses then they will be prescribed, the sight retested and, in most cases, the sight will improve.  When eyesight remains below normal in an otherwise healthy eye, then this is called amblyopia or ‘lazy eye’. 

What causes amblyopia? 

Anything that causes a blurred picture in one or both eyes including:

  • The eyes being out of line (squint) where one eye turns, most commonly inwards or outwards.
  • When the eyes do not focus properly (longsight / shortsight or astigmatism).
  • Cataract.
  • Droopy eyelid. 

How is amblyopia usually treated?  

Amblyopia should be treated in the early years of life before the visual system has fully developed.  The earlier it is treated, the easier it is to manage. 

When the sight remains below normal, with glasses on, the lazy eye needs to be encouraged into use.  This can be done by either patching the good sighted eye or blurring the good sighted eye by using ointment or drops.

What is the aim of treatment? 

The aim of treatment is to improve the sight in the lazy eye. 

In cases when it is not possible to achieve equal vision, the aim is to optimise the vision in the lazy eye. This is to give useful vision in this eye should anything detrimental happen to the “good” eye later in life.   

How long will treatment take?  

The length of treatment will vary for different children.  Generally most of the improvement in vision takes place in the first six months of treatment.    Treatment will continue until there is no further improvement in vision or until an acceptable level is reached.  Factors to consider include:

  • How poor the vision is at the start of treatment
  • The age your child is when treatment is started
  • The cause of the poor vision
  • If your child wears their patch/uses drops for the specified amount of time.

Treatment will continue until there is no further improvement in vision or until an acceptable level is reached and the vision is stable.  

What would happen if treatment is late or is not given? 

In some cases treatment may not be indicated, for example if the eye is not healthy and would not respond to treatment, or if your child is considered too old.  However, in some cases, if the eye is healthy, the condition can be treated even if detected late. 

If you choose not to treat your child’s lazy eye then the vision will remain below normal.   

Your Orthoptist or Ophthalmologist will be happy to discuss each case individually.

Orthoptic Department contact number

0191 282 4434 or 0191 282 5415 between 9.00am – 5.00pm

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