Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)

What is lazy eye?

Lazy eye is reduced vision that happens when one or both eyes do not develop normal sight during early childhood. It is also called amblyopia.

If treatment does not take place early, the lazy eye may never see as well as the stronger eye.

What is the cause?

Normally, both eyes work together to send pictures to the brain. The brain blends the two pictures into a single, clear picture. If pictures from each eye are different, the brain ignores the picture from one eye to avoid confusion. Over time, you may not be able to see as well out of that eye. Your eyes may not work together because:

  • They are not pointing in the same direction.
  • The size or shape of your eyeball causes light to focus in the wrong place at the back of your eye.
  • You were born with cataracts or other eye conditions that affect the sight in one or both eyes
  • You have eyelid problems that keep your eyes from opening all the way.

What are the symptoms?

You may have problems such as:

  • Trouble judging depth and space, such as stair steps
  • Trouble seeing fine details
  • Trouble seeing differences if there is no strong contrast in light or color
  • Trouble judging the speed and direction of moving objects

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and activities and examine your eyes. If no other cause for your vision problems can be found, it may be decided that you have amblyopia.

How is it treated?

There is no treatment for amblyopia in adults. Most people can work and play well with reduced vision in one eye. However, some jobs, such as airline pilots and interstate truck drivers, are required by law to have good vision in both eyes.

How can I take care of myself?

To protect your vision, always wear eye protection and shatterproof glasses when doing activities that could cause injuries to your eyes.

Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site:
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-12-05
Last reviewed: 2014-10-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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