Amblyopia is the medical term for poor vision in one, or sometimes both eyes often termed a ‘lazy eye‘.


It is generally caused by lack of use of one eye when the brain “favours” one eye over the other. In most cases, the eye itself is normal but is different in some way to cause this preference. In essence, amblyopia is a disorder of the brain cells that control the vision in one eye, not a problem with the eye itself. The brain cells diminish in size when they are not used.


In most cases amblyopia is treatable. However, the success of treatment is dependent upon the initial level of vision, the amount of time the vision has been poor and the age of the child. The most important factor in treating amblyopia is compliance with the treatment protocol.

  1. Treatment usually requires “forcing” the brain to use the non-preferred eye. In most cases this means patching the normal eye for most or all of the day.
  2. Glasses may also be required to help balance an unequal refractive power between the two eyes allowing the brain to use both eyes together.
  3. If a cataract is present, this may need to be removed before amblyopia treatment can be started. The initial treatment period may be difficult for a child, as he/she is being made to use their “bad” eye. This usually lasts a short period of time, as their vision improves rapidly. It can not be overemphasised that the major reason for failure in the treatment of amblyopia is poor compliance with the treatment protocol.
  4. Amblyopia can be treated only when a child is young (below the age of about 7). Much older than this, the connection between the eyes and brain cells have fully formed and it may be too late to treat the ambylopia. We recommend having your child examined as soon as they are old enough to cooperate (usually age 4 or 5) but if you are concerned about your child’s vision or eye health at any age, contact us at the practice for advice.

We have a depth of expertise at diagnosing and treating this condition so please contact any of our optometrists if you have any concerns.

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5 St. Vincent Street, Edinburgh EH3 6SW
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