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Amblyopia, commonly known as "Lazy Eye," occurs when one eye develops normally and maintains good vision while the other does not. This disease usually occurs only in one eye with the abnormal eye referred to as "amblyopic." Amblyopia is a common condition and affects 2 to 3 out of every 100 people.

What Causes Amblyopia?

Amblyopia can be caused by a number of conditions which affect visual development and normal use of the eyes. In many cases, the underlying condition causing amblyopia may be inherited. Three major hereditary causes are:

  • Strabismus (Misaligned Eyes):
  • Amblyopia occurs most commonly with misaligned or crossed eyes. The misaligned eye "turns off" to avoid double vision and the person uses only the eye that is correctly aligned.
  • Unequal Focus (Refractive Error):
  • Refractive error is an eye condition that can be corrected by wearing glasses. Amblyopia occurs when one eye is more nearsighted, farsighted, or astigmatic than the other eye. The more unfocused (blurred) eye "turns off" and becomes amblyopic. The eyes may appear normal but the amblyopic eye has poor vision. Refractive, or anisometropic, amblyopia is the most difficult type to detect because there is no strabismus present and the individual often does not notice visual problems when both eyes are open.
  • Occlusion:
  • An eye disease such as cataract (a clouding of the eye's lens) may lead to amblyopia by preventing visual images from being focused on the retina within the eye. Any opacity which prevents adequate sensory input from reaching the retina can disrupt visual development of the eye and lead to amblyopia.

How Amblyopia is Diagnosed?

Unless there are obvious indications of amblyopia, such as a misaligned eye, individuals are often not able to recognize the problem.
An eye doctor will be able to diagnose amblyopia using a variety of tests that measure visual acuity and detect decreased vision.

How Amblyopia is Treated?

To correct this condition, the patient must be made to use the "weak" eye in order to achieve normal visual acuity.

Infants and Children

Treating amblyopia in infants and children usually requires patching or covering the stronger eye. Patching the stronger eye forces the child to primarily use the weaker eye and allows the weak eye to visually develop over a period of weeks or months. Even after vision has been normalized in the weak eye, part-time patching may be required to maintain the improvement.

Teens and Adults

Adolescents and adults can be treated in a number of ways:

  • Glasses may be prescribed to correct refractive errors and improve focusing of the eyes.
  • Vision in the strong eye may be blurred using the drop iopidine (causing constriction of the pupil) and thereby forces the weak eye to be used.
  • In some cases, such as a cataract causing occlusion of vision, surgery may be required to remove the opacified lens and replace it with a lens implant.

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