Just about everyone has heard of the term lazy eye, but how does it happen – and how can it be remedied?
The term lazy eye describes the misalignment or drifting of one eye. Beyond these most common complaints, a lazy eye can also cause more serious problems with vision, including a loss of binocular vision that could lead to difficulty measuring depth, severe loss of acuity in the lazy eye (if uncorrected/unused), and greater risk of losing vision in the stronger eye.
Causes of Lazy Eye
Two main conditions can result in what we call a lazy eye:
Amblyopia: This describes when the brain to eye connection is faced with a developmental problem. Essentially, with amblyopia, one’s brain has learned to ignore signals and information from one of the eyes. This problem isn’t one physically presented in the eye, but it can be caused by – and the cause of – such problems.
Strabismus: Commonly known as crossed eyes, strabismus occurs when eyes are misaligned due to surrounding muscles not communicating properly. Strabismus can cause amblyopia, and vice versa.
Strabismus is the most common cause of the underdeveloped or weak brain-eye connection characterized by amblyopia. When muscles of the eye cannot properly pair our eyes, each eye sends a different image to the brain – this is particularly a problem during development. The brain resolves this confusion by simply ignoring one of those disparate images, resulting in one eye becoming unused and that corresponding area of the brain less developed.
Refractive error (astigmatism or near/farsightedness) that is more pronounced in one eye can also cause amblyopia. Refractive error, like strabismus, leads to eye input being mismatched as it communicates with the brain, causing the brain to accept only one of the eyes’ images. Unfortunately, any other issue that causes this type of imbalance, including cloudy lenses, childhood cataracts, and physical abnormalities, can cause amblyopia.
Treating Lazy Eye
Treating amblyopia is the first part of lazy eye correction; there are two main parts to this treatment:
- Vision problems, like refractive errors and cataracts, are the first to be corrected. This may be as simple as getting prescriptions lenses for one or both eyes.
- For most cases of lazy eye, optometrists will block the eye that is stronger to help the brain learn to recognize the image sent by the amblyopic eye. This is often done with a patch or drops that blur vision for a short time.
For more mild cases, treatment may be accomplished through exercises performed by eye muscles. On occasion, severe cases amblyopia cannot be corrected through vision therapy, correction, and training. For some, surgery to help strengthen or weaken the eye muscles through lengthening or shortening can be extremely helpful.
Ultimately, the sooner a lazy eye is seen and treated, the greater the chance of correcting the problem. If you or a family member is struggling with lazy eye, contact us today to set up an appointment toward correct vision.