Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)

Amblyopia is poor vision in an eye that didn't develop normal sight during early childhood. It is sometimes called "lazy eye."

Cause of Amblyopia

One cause of amblyopia is strabismus (pronounced struh-biz-muhs). Strabismus is a condition where one eye turns inward or outward. The eyes cannot clearly focus on the same image, so the brain ignores the image from the turned eye. Over time, the vision in this eye becomes worse. 

Another cause of amblyopia is when one eye has much better vision than the other eye. The brain will get a blurry image from one eye and a clear image from the other eye. The images sent from the blurred eye are ignored by the brain and the vision in this eye becomes worse over time. 

Concerns

If not properly treated, amblyopia can cause:

  • Permanent vision loss in the eye with amblyopia
  • Loss of depth perception (seeing in three dimensions)
  • May affect future jobs (for example, becoming a pilot)

Treatment

Patching is a common treatment for amblyopia. A patch is placed over the strong eye which forces the child to use the weaker eye. As a result, the weak eye gets stronger. Your child must wear the patch every day.

Ways to Help Your Child Pass the Time

  • Using a close-up device during screen time
  • Coloring, cutting paper, making crafts, playing with Play-Doh
  • Playing video games
  • Reading books
  • Having the child wear the patch when already distracted (for example, while playing or eating)

Red Mark or Rash on Face From the Patch

Rub Aquaphor healing ointment or over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream on the irritation before bedtime to promote quick healing. To prevent further irritation, put a small layer of Milk of Magnesia (or similar brand) on the skin where the patch is to be applied. Then apply the patch on top of the dried Milk of Magnesia. This will protect the skin and help the patch come off more easily.

What If the Eye Starts to Turn In or Out?

Do not stop patching. Call your doctor.

Glasses and the Patch

If your child is wearing glasses, he/she should keep wearing the glasses and put the patch on the eye, not on the glasses.

Problems with the Patch

If your child has problems with patching, call your doctor; do not wait for your next appointment. There are alternative treatments, including eye drops. Talk with your child’s eye doctor for more information.

Additional Resources

Last Updated 07/2017

Contact us.

The ophthalmology program at Cincinnati Children's is one of the largest centers in the nation for the care of children’s eyes, treating everything from common to very rare conditions.

Get More Information