Amblyopia usually affects only one eye.
The problem starts between birth and about age 7. Your child may not even know that he or she is using only one eye. Ignoring the images from the weak eye is an automatic response. Your child has no control over it.
Early treatment usually can reverse amblyopia. The younger your child is when treatment starts, the more likely your child is to have good vision.
Amblyopia is sometimes called "lazy eye."
Any condition that prevents your child's eyes from forming a clear, focused image or that prevents the normal use of one or both eyes can cause amblyopia. It may happen when:
Your child may be more likely to have amblyopia if someone else in your family had it or if your child had a premature birth or low birth weight.
In most cases, amblyopia does not cause symptoms. But your child may:
Your child's doctor will do an eye examination. If the examination shows that your child has poor vision in one eye, the doctor may diagnose amblyopia after ruling out other causes.
To help make the diagnosis, the doctor will ask about symptoms, any family members who have had vision problems, other possible risk factors such as low birth weight, and whether your child has trouble reading, seeing the board in school, or watching TV.
The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends screening to detect lazy eye (amblyopia), misaligned eyes (strabismus), and defects in visual acuity in children younger than 5 years of age.1 If you worry about your child's eyes or vision, take him or her to an eye doctor sooner. No child is too young for an eye examination.
For amblyopia to be treated, your child must use the weak eye. This will force the eye to get stronger. Over time this corrects the vision in the weak eye.
Your doctor may suggest:
Your child may have
to wear the patch or glasses most of the day or for just part of each day. Treatment may last for a few weeks or months. Severe cases may take longer.
If another problem is causing the amblyopia, such as a cataract, it also needs to be treated.
Treatment is best started before age 6 and should begin before your child's vision has fully developed, around age 9 or 10. Later treatment will most likely be less helpful but may still improve vision in some cases. A child with amblyopia who does not get treatment may have poor vision for life.
After treatment ends, be sure to set up follow-up eye examinations for your child. Amblyopia can return even after successful treatment.
Treatment sounds simple, but using an eye patch or glasses may bother your child. To help your child:
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Learning about amblyopia:
Living with amblyopia:
The American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus
(AAPOS) provides information and encourages research on medical and surgical
eye care for children and adults with strabismus and other eye problems.
The Canadian Ophthalmological Society is an association
of eye doctors dedicated to helping the public take good care of their eyes and
vision. This group provides educational information on eye conditions and
diseases and eye safety.
The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) promotes quality health care
for Canadian children and establishes guidelines for paediatric care. The
organization offers educational materials on a variety of topics, including
information on immunizations, pregnancy, safety issues, and teen health.
Prevent Blindness America is a leading volunteer eye health and
safety organization in the United States. It provides the general public and
eye professionals with educational, community, and consumer services. Local
affiliates exist in many states.
The Eye Patch Club is a special program that offers a newsletter,
calendars, classroom guides, and other resources for families coping with a
child's amblyopia treatment.
This website is provided by
the American Academy of Ophthalmology. It provides general information and
brochures on eye conditions and diseases and low-vision resources and
Community Paediatrics Committee, Canadian Paediatric Society (2009). Vision screening in infants, children and youth. Paediatrics and Child Health, 14(4): 246–248. Also available online: http://www.cps.ca/english/statements/CP/cp09-02.htm.
Other Works Consulted
American Academy of Ophthalmology Pediatric Ophthalmology/Strabismus Panel (2012). Amblyopia (Preferred Practice Pattern). San Francisco: American Academy of Ophthalmology. Also available online:
American Academy of Ophthalmology Pediatric Ophthalmology/Strabismus Panel (2012). Pediatric eye evaluations. (Preferred Practice Pattern). San Francisco: American Academy of Ophthalmology. Also available online:
Diamond GR (2009). Amblyopia. In M Yanoff, JS Duker, eds., Ophthalmology, 3rd ed., pp. 1362–1367. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
Quinn AG, Levin AV (2011). Amblyopia. In CD Rudolph et al., eds., Rudolph's Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 2291–2293. New York: McGraw-Hill.
West S, Williams C (2011). Amblyopia, search date May 2010. BMI Clinical Evidence. Available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
Wright KW (2008). Amblyopia and strabismus. In Pediatric Ophthalmology for Primary Care, 3rd ed., pp. 21–33. Elk Grove Village: American Academy of Pediatrics.
April 3, 2013
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
& Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
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