Dr. Davis

Lazy Eye Often Confused with Strabismus

While the term “lazy eye” is often used to describe this phenomenon by the general public, however, it is inaccurate. Dr. Davis clarifies.


Gainesville, VA -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/11/2012 -- Lazy eye is the state of diminished eyesight in one of a child’s eyes. Medically, the term used is amblyopia in order to distinguish it from strabismus, which is the state of one eye having a physical turn. In strabismus, a visual inspection can determine that the two eyes are not focusing on the same location in many cases. While the term “lazy eye” is often used to describe this phenomenon by the general public, however, it is actually inaccurate.

The phrase “lazy eye,” from a medical perspective, is reserved as a layman’s term for amblyopia. While strabismus (eye turn) can cause amblyopia (lazy eye), the two are not the same disorder, and therefore a child can suffer from one disorder independent of the other. This means that a child without any eye turn can still have a lazy eye.

The question, then, is how do we know when a child is suffering from lazy eye? Clearly, this is an issue which can be difficult to diagnose, precisely because it does not manifest itself in an easily recognized way like strabismus does. Instead, it is important for the parent to look for the following symptoms:

- Child complains of headaches, especially during tasks requiring sustained visual focus.
- Child reads with one eye closed.
- Child struggles with studies, or is considered a “reluctant” reader.
- Child seems clumsy, or displays signs of poor depth perception.
- There is a major difference in visual acuity between one eye and the other when tested.

If the child displays any of the first four items on the list, the problem could be amblyopia. However, other visual disorders are also known to cause the same problem. The good news is that an acuity screening will detect amblyopia while it will not detect other visual disorders. A full visual screening by a developmental optometrist can pinpoint the exact nature of the disorder and lead to a proper diagnosis.

If the child is diagnosed with amblyopia, or lazy eye, the good news is that there are numerous treatments available for lazy eye. The most popular method consists of a combination of patching and vision therapy to retrain the eye and the eye-brain connection to receive and process images fully. Although patching the “good” eye will force the “bad eye” to see more clearly while the patch is on, without vision training to supplement the patching, the brain will often suppress the “bad” eye soon after the patch on the “good” eye is removed. By using vision therapy to reinforce the vision in the “bad” eye, the child learns how to process information from both eyes correctly. Eventually, the brain ceases to suppress the bad eye, leading to a permanent improvement in the child’s overall vision.

If the child is suffering from the symptoms of amblyopia, a vision screening by a developmental optometry and vision therapy services provider can help. For more information, visit the website of Dr. Tod Davis at DavisVisionTherapy.com.

About Dr. Tod Davis
Dr. Tod Davis Developmental Optometry and Vision Therapy Services offices are located in Gainesville, Fredericksburg and Winchester, Va. Dr. Davis is a developmental optometrist with over 30 years of experience treating people of all ages for a spectrum of different vision disorders, including convergence insufficiency, strabismus, amblyopia and vision-related reading difficulties. Visit DavisVisionTherapy.com for more information, patient forms and contact information.