How Can You Tell If You Have a Lazy Eye?

Reviewed on 2/1/2022

What Is a Lazy Eye?

A child with a lazy eye (amblyopia)
Symptoms and signs of lazy eye include squinting, shutting one eye, tilting the head, frequently rubbing one eye, reading difficulties, math difficulties, reduced fine motor skills, attention difficulties, sports performance difficulties, being accident prone, and more.

Lazy eye (amblyopia) is a condition in which there is a problem in how the brain and the eye work together, and the brain is unable to properly register the sight from one eye resulting in poor vision in one eye. This causes the brain to rely more on the stronger eye, and the vision in the weaker eye gets worse. 

Lazy eye usually starts in childhood and affects about 3% of children. 

Parents or caregivers frequently don’t notice signs of lazy eye, because they can be subtle. Lazy eye is usually diagnosed through routine vision screening during a doctor's check-up or at school. 

19 Symptoms of Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)

You may be able to tell if your child has a lazy eye if they have symptoms such as: 

  • Appearing to strain to see clearly
    • Squinting
    • Shutting one eye
    • Tilting the head
  • Frequently rubbing one eye
  • Reading difficulties
    • A child needs to extra effort to focus to keep words clear which can cause fatigue and reduced concentration while reading
    • Reading can become stressful for the child
  • Math difficulties 
    • Blurred or double vision affect the way math problems appear on a page and the child’s ability to solve math problems 
  • Reduced fine motor skills
    • Messy handwriting
    • Inability to stay on the line when writing 
  • Attention difficulties
  • Sports performance difficulties
  • Being accident prone

Other symptoms of lazy eye can include: 

  • Double vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Problems with depth perception

What Causes a Lazy Eye?

Causes of lazy eye include: 

Risk factors for developing lazy eye include:

  • Premature birth
  • Smaller than average size at birth
  • Family history of lazy eye, childhood cataracts, or other eye conditions
  • Developmental disabilities

How to Fix a Lazy Eye

Early treatment is key in improving lazy eye and preventing long-term vision problems.

Treatment for lazy eye includes: 

  • Glasses or contact lenses (for children who are nearsighted, farsighted, or have astigmatism)
  • Surgery 
    • To treat cataracts
    • To fix droopy eyelids
    • To strengthen muscles if due to crossed eyes
  • Training the weaker eye by making it work harder so it can get stronger
    • An eye patch worn over the stronger eye so that eye can't see
    • Eye drops to put in the stronger eye to blur vision in that eye

Vision may start to improve within a few weeks but it typically takes months for the best results. Children may need to continue to use the treatments on occasion to prevent the lazy eye from returning.

Reviewed on 2/1/2022
Image Source: iStock Images