"Lazy eye” affects about four million people in the United
States. It occurs when one eye is used less than the other. If
one eye is crossed or turns out, the individual sees double, so
he or she learns to “shut off” or ignore that eye. If the two
eyes are very different, one nearsighted and the other
farsighted, the same thing can occur. After a while, vision in
the unused eye is reduced.
For many years it was thought
that amblyopia, or “lazy eye” (when one eye sees poorly and
cannot be helped with corrective lenses), was a permanent
condition unless it was detected and treated before the age of
Many optometrists no longer accept this, believing that even
adults can improve their sight, or maybe completely correct
their lazy eye through special therapy.
The American Optometric Association agrees that current research
proves the old theory wrong. The success rate does drop off as
one gets older, but the cut-off at age six is arbitrary. Age
should not be a barrier, though the longer the condition has
existed the more difficult it becomes to treat.
varies depending on the extent of the condition, the patients’
age and the optometrist. Small children often have their
stronger eye patched for several hours a day. This stimulates
the use of the weak eye while they perform exercises such as
coloring, cutting things out and tracing.
is usually several hours a week in the doctor’s office and at
home and it will often correct the underlying reason for the lazy
eye. Very small children can improve in a month or two; however
children may take several months to a year to respond.
With adults, treatment is basically the same, but it takes
longer. Adults may not wear a patch at all if vision is very
poor, or only for an hour or two at home while doing fine tasks
such as coloring in the 0’s of a newspaper. Patients do
exercises designed to improve focusing, tracking and spatial
Many times after treatment, 50 percent of the
older children and adults see as well or almost as well with
their lazy eye as with their normal eye, and four out of five of
the rest at least show improvement. Results are permanent when
both the amblyopia and the underlying problem are corrected.
When the latter can’t be treated, patients should continue the
exercises on a less frequent basis and visit their optometrist
periodically so that the eye does not weaken again.
Dr. David J. Nota and his Staff Provide Quality
Eye Care and Personalized Service You Can Trust!