2021 Update: Lazy Eye and Adults

Dr. Russel Lazarus, April 25, 2021
adultslazyete

Lazy eye is estimated to affect up to 5% of all adults.

For many decades, it has been thought that only children under the age of 10 could be successfully treated for amblyopia (lazy eye). In other words, lazy eye treatment was usually not provided to children older than nine.

However, the National Eye Institute (NEI) recently funded a study that found that lazy eye can be successfully treated at least up to age 17 and even adults!

Now, lazy eye can be effectively treated in high school and college student and even adults!

Find a Vision Therapy Eye Doctor Near You

What is lazy eye?

Lazy eye, also known as amblyopia, is a neuro-developmental vision condition that is caused when one eye is unable to achieve normal visual acuity or does not allow the full development of 3D vision.

A lazy eye typically affects the vision or visual function of the affected eye, causing blurred vision which contributes to poor depth perception and binocular vision.

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

Contact an eye doctor near you who can diagnose and treat your lazy eye.

Symptoms of lazy eye

Common symptoms of lazy eye:

  • One or both eyes may wander inward or outward
  • Both eyes may not seem to be working together
  • Poor depth perception
  • Squinting or shutting one eye in order to see
  • Tilting one’s head in order to see
  • Frequent eye strain, eye fatigue, or headaches

If you experience any of these symptoms, contact an eye doctor near you who diagnoses and treats lazy eye.

Are eye exams important?

Yes, frequent eye exams are essential as the earlier a lazy eye is detected, the higher the chances of successful treatment.

In many cases, amblyopia is detectable during a comprehensive eye exam. In addition, if there is a family history of lazy eye, it is crucial that your eyes be examined regularly, as lazy eye can be an inherited condition.

Specific tests are used during eye exams to assess both the visual acuity and the visual skills of each eye. This enables your eye doctor to diagnose a condition such as lazy eye.

Adult lazy eye treatment

For many years it was believed that amblyopia was only treatable in children, often those who are 10 years of age or younger. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. While every patient is different, many adults can see results from amblyopia treatment.

The visual system which consists of the brain, eyes, and visual pathways, can be retrained due to the brain’s plasticity.

For amblyopia, specifically, binocular vision needs to be retrained, as this is the root cause behind a lazy eye. 

With poor binocular vision the two images that the eyes see cannot be combined into one single image, but due to the plasticity of the brain, this does not have to be permanent.

While treatment is most effective when it’s given at an early age, it is still possible at any age to retrain the visual system, restore binocular vision, and correct amblyopia.

Lazy eye and vision therapy

Vision therapy is an effective treatment method for amblyopia. It has been shown to greatly improve the visual skills of the lazy eye by re-training the visual system.

Through vision therapy, the two eyes will be trained to work together to achieve clear and comfortable binocular vision.

Some vision therapy programs that treat amblyopia work to improve these visual skills:

  • Accommodation (focusing)
  • Fixation (visual gaze)
  • Pursuits (eye tracking)
  • Saccades (switching eye focus, “eye jumps”)
  • Spatial skills (eye-hand coordination)
  • Stereopsis (3-D vision)

Schedule an eye exam and vision evaluation for a proper diagnosis of lazy eye and to discuss whether a vision therapy program is the appropriate treatment for you.