Until What Age Can a Lazy Eye Be Treated?

Published May 10, 2020

Recent research from the National Eye Institute (NEI) shows that a lazy eye can be successfully treated at least up to age 17.

For many decades, it has been thought that amblyopia (lazy eye) can only be treated for children up to around ages seven to nine years— meaning that lazy eye treatment was usually not provided to children older than nine.

What is amblyopia?

Amblyopia, also known as lazy eye, usually causes blurred vision in just one eye which contributes to poor binocular vision and depth perception.

Amblyopia affects up to 3% of all children.

Amblyopia may develop due to other vision conditions such as a crossed or wandering eye (strabismus), or unequal vision in the two eyes caused by astigmatism, farsightedness or nearsightedness.

NEI research

A supported research study conducted by the National Institute of Health, National Eye Institute (NIH/NEI) has disproved the long held belief that children with lazy eyes, or amblyopia, cannot be helped after a known cut-off age. In the past, the cut-off age for treating lazy eyes was said to be anywhere from seven to nine years.

This research was conducted at 49 eye centers across the U.S., including the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Mayo Clinic, The Emory Eye Center, The Ohio State University, Southern California College of Optometry, and the State University of New York, College of Optometry.

The study included 507 children between the ages 7-17, and found that it is possible to improve eyesight even in children up to age 17.

Results showed:

  • 53 percent of 7 to 12 year-olds had improved vision following treatment!
  • 47 percent of 13 to 17 year old children also gained improved eyesight!

Statements from the doctors involved

Michael X. Repka, M.D., Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, one of the study’s lead authors:

  • “This study confirms that older children and teenagers with amblyopia [lazy eye] may benefit from treatment even at an age traditionally regarded as too old for success.”

Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the National Eye Institute.

  • “This research will have a significant impact on how eye doctors manage children with amblyopia. Doctors can now feel confident that traditional treatments for amblyopia will work for many older children”

Dr. Mitchell Scheiman. O.D. FCOVD, Director of Paediatric and Binocular Vision, Pennsylvania College of Optometry.

  • “Parents should seek a second opinion from an eye doctor with experience in treating lazy eyes in children of all ages. 
  • With proper optical correction and an active treatment program, including eye patching and vision therapy to stimulate vision in the lazy eye, many children can obtain improved vision regardless of age.”

 

Reference:

Scheiman MM, Hertle RW, Beck RW, Edwards AR, Birch E, Cotter SA, Crouch ER Jr, Cruz OA, Davitt BV, Donahue S, Holmes JM, Lyon DW, Repka MX, Sala NA, Silbert DI, Suh DW, Tamkins SM; Pediatric Eye Disease Investigator Group. ‘Randomized trial of treatment of amblyopia in children aged 7 to 17 years’. Arch Ophthalmol. 2005 Apr;123(4):437-47.