Amblyopia & Strabismus

Lazy Eye:  What is it? And What Can Parents Do About It?

People often refer to amblyopia as "Lazy Eye."  Sometimes they call an eye turn (strabismus) Lazy Eye as well.

Most parents assume that because their child can see things in the distance that both eyes must be seeing fine.   Unfortunately this is not always the case.  Actually they may be using only one eye, while the other eye may not even be functioning properly.  Parents often ask: “but wouldn’t my child know this?”  A child may not be aware of this, because they think that this is the way that everyone sees.   Since they are still able to see out of one eye, they don’t even know to complain! 

This is why it is essential that all children have a comprehensive vision exam before they begin school or as early in the school year as possible.

Childhood Signs of Amblyopia

“Lazy Eye,” or Amblyopia, is easy to miss because there are very few symptoms.  Lazy Eye means that the eye sees poorly, even with eyeglasses. Usually when parents see an eye that doesn’t seem to line up correctly they think that is a “lazy eye.”  In fact, that is a condition called an eye turn, or Strabismus.  It is important for parents to understand that while amblyopia and strabismus often occur together, you won’t always see an eye wander off when your child has amblyopia.

Some early childhood symptoms that might indicate that there is a problem include:

  • Difficulty in catching or hitting a ball.  
  • Difficulty seeing 3D movies. 
    Being able to see 3D is not just a fun thing to do in the movies, it is important for everyday life.  As an example, we use 3 dimensional vision to ride a bicycle, walk down stairs, play sports and for all activities that require eye-hand coordination. 
  • If your child always knocks over the milk at the dinner table, is clumsy or has sloppy handwriting, these could also be signs of a vision problem.


Strabismus is commonly referred to as a “crossed eye” or “wandering eye”.  It is a visual condition in which a person is unable to align both eyes simultaneously.  When the eyes do not point at the same object at the same time, the result is the appearance of one eye turning in relationship to the other.  A person with strabismus has reduced binocular function and depth perception.

Whether the eye turn is constant or intermittent, strabismus always requires treatment. It will not go away on its own, and children will not outgrow it.

People who have strabismus struggle with visual space orientation.  This orientation is a mental phenomenon that exists in the visual cortex of the brain.  If left untreated, the eye that turns may develop reduced visual acuity, a condition known as amblyopia or “lazy eye”.

Treatment for Strabismus & Amblyopia

Treatment for amblyopia is different depending on which doctor you see.  Some will tell you that nothing can be done after age 7 or 9.  However, new research is confirming what we have known for years; thanks to optometric vision therapy, it is never too late to treat a lazy eye!  It is definitely true that the earlier amblyopia and other vision conditions are diagnosed, the easier they are to treat and manage.  But, even adults well into their 40’s and older can often benefit from vision therapy.

As a parent it is important to educate yourself on ALL treatment options because children do not outgrow eye turns or lazy eye.  Surgery is not the only way to treat an eye turn and there are more effective treatment options for lazy eye other than patching alone (with or without drops).

Optometric vision therapy has helped many patients achieve normal vision in their amblyopic eye and has also resulted in eyes that are straight without the need for surgery!  If you have been told your child is too old to treat, there is still hope.  Vision therapy gets excellent results no matter how old the patient is. 

Learn more about Vision Therapy...