Amblyopia or “lazy eye” is one of the most common vision problems in children. And it can be difficult for parents, and even pediatricians, to spot. At Nemours, our pediatric ophthalmologists are trained to provide early, age-appropriate vision screenings to catch eye problems, like lazy eye in children, before they can impact your child’s visual health.
Amblyopia is responsible for more vision loss in children than any other causes. With amblyopia, vision is decreased when one eye (or both) sends a blurry image to the brain. The brain then “learns” to see blurry and essentially “turns off” that eye to favor the stronger eye.
Underlying causes of lazy eye in children may include refractive errors such as astigmatism or farsightedness, strabismus (a misaligned eye) or a cataract (cloudiness of the lens). Treatment for amblyopia involves strengthening vision by forcing the brain to see images in the blurry eye.
Often there are no readily identifiable symptoms of lazy eye since kids usually don’t notice a difference in vision. However, if your child struggles in school or athletics, an ophthalmologic disorder like amblyopia might be the cause.
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If left untreated, lazy eye in children (amblyopia) can cause permanent loss of vision. Because your child’s vision usually stabilizes at age 9 or 10 and after that may not improve much with treatment, Nemours ophthalmologists encourage early, age-appropriate childhood vision screenings.
How We Treat Lazy Eye in Children
Amblyopia treatment may involve prescription glasses, occlusion therapy (covering one eye with a patch) or blurring the vision in one eye with atropine drops.
Blocking or blurring the vision in the “good eye” with a patch or with eye drops (which don’t sting) helps stimulate the brain to learn to use the other eye. It usually takes a few weeks for your child’s vision to improve and the best results may be achieved over several months depending on the child’s age and level of vision. Maintenance treatment until 9-10 years of age may also be necessary.
Surgery may be used to treat strabismus (only one cause of lazy eye in children), but it is often not performed before treating the amblyopia with patches, glasses, and/or atropine.