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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Lazy eye (amblyopia)

Karu māngere

Lazy eye (amblyopia) is when someone has poor vision in one eye, even though the eye is otherwise healthy. This happens because they have not used that eye enough in early childhood so the nerve pathways from the eye to their brain have not developed fully. So, if your tamaiti (child) uses one eye at the expense of the other eye, the eye they do not use becomes lazy.

No matter how old your tamaiti is, it's very important that they get the treatment they need to improve their vision as soon as possible. The older your tamaiti gets, the more difficult it is to improve their vision. The earlier the treatment the better.

Causes of lazy eye

Lazy eye can be caused by:

Treating lazy eye

Eye patchTamariki (children) with a lazy eye are mostly treated by putting a patch over their good eye to help their brain use the poorly sighted eye.

Patching must only be done with guidance and supervision from an eye health professional. See an optometrist or ophthalmologist (eye doctor) or ask your general practice team to refer you to one.

The aim of putting a patch on your tamaiti is to make their vision equal in each eye, which means their brain sees equally well through either eye. If they're short-sighted, long-sighted or have astigmatism they will also need glasses.

How long the patch needs to stay on depends on how lazy their eye is to begin with. The poorer the vision, the longer they will need to wear the patch.

Treatment can be tough because you're forcing your tamaiti to use an eye with poor vision. They may not be sure why they have to wear a patch, so explain what is happening as soon as they're old enough to understand.

Make sure your tamaiti continues wearing the patch, even if it's difficult. If left untreated, the vision in the lazy eye will become worse, which may be permanent.

Your tamaiti will need to be regularly assessed by an eye health professional to check on their treatment and progress.

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Written by Canterbury optometrists. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2023.


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Review key: HIVIP-134077