Many people falsely believe that lazy eye is always easy to notice. But this isn't always the case. Especially in children, lazy eye may not be able to be physically detected. Lazy eye occurs when the vision in one of a child's eyes does not develop properly. Visible signs of "laziness," such as an eye that drifts in another direction, may not be seen for some years. Treating lazy eye is more than possible today, but there are a few steps involved.
The Initial Eye Exam
Treatment of lazy eye begins by determining that the eye is lazy rather than another issue. A lazy eye is generally a physical issue with the strength of the eye; the muscles surrounding the eye aren't strong enough to focus the eye and move it appropriately, so the eye may drift or lag behind. If a child has poor vision in a single eye, it could also be another issue, such as astigmatism.
Putting a Patch Over the Good Eye
The first treatment that is usually used for lazy eye is to put a patch over the good eye. This forces the bad eye to compensate and grow stronger. A child may have issues with this initially, including headaches -- and depending on the severity of the eye's laziness, it may take months for the problem to be corrected. Patches may also need to be used after vision has been corrected to ensure that it is maintained.
Surgery for Lazy Eye
In addition to patches, there are also surgeries that are designed to correct lazy eye. This is generally done to correct an eye that has drifted to one side. Surgery understandably has complications but it is usually the most effective fix for a seriously misaligned eye. The surgery itself cannot fix the child's ability to see and focus on objects, however. The child will still have to do some exercises to strengthen their eye.
An alternative method of treatment is atropine. Atropine is an eye drop solution that is put into the good eye and works similarly to a patch. Instead of entirely obscuring the child's vision, the atropine makes the child's vision in the good eye just a little blurrier, thereby still forcing them to focus with their lazy eye but not taking away their depth perception or making them feel self-conscious. Atropine can also be used with eye patches.
If you believe your child may have lazy eye, it's important to schedule them for an appointment as soon as possible. Lazy eye is a condition that can get worse over time if it's allowed to continue.