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Can You Inherit a Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)?

Reviewed on 5/1/2019

Ask a Doctor

When I was a little girl, I had a lazy eye. I had to spend several years in thick glasses to correct it and it made those years torture at school. Now I’m pregnant with a little girl. When I found out the sex of the baby, I had flashbacks to getting teased for my glasses and my lazy eye. I don’t want that for my daughter! Is amblyopia a genetic disease? Can you inherit a lazy eye?

Doctor’s Response

Amblyopia, also called “lazy eye,” is a condition in which one eye doesn't see as well as the other eye. It occurs often in children and early detection and treatment can often correct the problem.

While amblyopia can occur on its own, ambylopia can also run in families. If there is a family history of the condition, children should be checked by an ophthalmologist earlier and more frequently than children from families where the condition does not occur.

Amblyopia can result from any condition that prevents the eye from focusing clearly. Amblyopia can be caused by the misalignment of the two eyes -- a condition called strabismus. With strabismus, the eyes can cross in (esotropia) or turn out (exotropia). Occasionally, amblyopia is caused by a clouding of the front part of the eye, a condition called cataract.

A common cause of amblyopia is the inability of one eye to focus as well as the other one. Amblyopia can occur when one eye is more nearsighted, more farsighted, or has more astigmatism. These terms refer to the ability of the eye to focus light on the retina. Farsightedness, or hyperopia, occurs when the distance from the front to the back of the eye is too short. Eyes that are farsighted tend to focus better at a distance but have more difficulty focusing on near objects. Nearsightedness, or myopia, occurs when the eye is too long from front to back. Eyes with nearsightedness tend to focus better on near objects. Eyes with astigmatism have difficulty focusing on far and near objects because of their irregular shape.

For more information, see our slide show on eye disorders.

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Reviewed on 5/1/2019
References
This article contains additional content from the U.S. National Institutes of Health

REFERENCES:

United States. National Eye Institute (NEI). National Institutes of Health. "Facts About Ambylopia." September 2013. <https://nei.nih.gov/health/amblyopia/amblyopia_guide>.

The doctors and editors at UpToDate. Patient education: Crossed eyes and lazy eye (The Basics). 2 January 2019 .

VisionForKids.org. Amblyopia Q & A. 2 January 2019 .
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