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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 exam. If the exam 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.
Experts suggest that children have an eye checkup between the ages of 3 and 5, and earlier in some cases.1 If you worry about your child’s eyes or vision, take him or her to an eye doctor. No child is too young for an eye exam.
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 all the time 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 exams 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.
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
This website is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation. It
has a wide range of information about children's health—from allergies and
diseases to normal growth and development (birth to adolescence). This website
offers separate areas for kids, teens, and parents, each providing
age-appropriate information that the child or parent can understand. You can
sign up to get weekly emails about your area of interest.
As part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the National Eye
Institute provides information on eye diseases and vision research.
Publications are available to the public at no charge. The Web site includes
links to various information resources.
Prevent Blindness America assists the visually impaired
and provides consumer information on vision problems and vision aids.
Its website has information about eye health and safety for children
and adults. Many states have local affiliates.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2011). Vision screening for children 1 to 5 years of age:
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation
statement. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Available online: http://www.pediatrics.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2010-3177.
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.
Wright KW (2008). Amblyopia and strabismus. In Pediatric Ophthalmology for Primary Care, 3rd ed., pp. 21–33. Elk Grove Village: American Academy of Pediatrics.
June 24, 2011
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
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