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When Is It Too Late to Treat Lazy Eye?

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Visiting your optometrist for routine exams is key to maintaining healthy vision. Treatment for certain eye conditions like lazy eye is best treated when diagnosed early by an optometrist. 

Lazy eye can be treated using a variety of tools like vision therapy, prism eyeglasses, and surgery. Treatment is most effective during childhood, but it’s never too late to treat lazy eye!

What is Lazy Eye?

Lazy eye, or Amblyopia, refers to reduced vision in one eye that is caused by abnormal visual development in early life. 

How Does Lazy Eye Develop?

A lazy eye develops when there’s a breakdown in how the brain and eyes communicate and work together. The brain ultimately is unable to recognize sight from one eye. Over time, the brain begins to rely on the stronger eye while vision in the weaker eye worsens. The weaker eye may end up wandering inward or outward.

The 3 known causes of lazy eye are:

  • Strabismus (Crossed Eyes): Misaligned eyes where one eye may turn in, out, up, or down.
  • Refractive Errors: A significant difference in the prescription between the two eyes, such as one eye being more nearsighted, farsighted, or having more astigmatism than the other.
  • Deprivation: Something like a cataract, droopy eyelid, or corneal scar blocks vision in one eye, leading to the brain favoring the stronger eye.

What are the Symptoms of Lazy Eye?

The symptoms of Amblyopia can be subtle, but some signs to watch for include:

  • Squinting or shutting an eye
  • Poor depth perception
  • Strabismus (eye that drifts)
  • Head tilting
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills

How is Lazy Eye Diagnosed?

A lazy eye is diagnosed by an optometrist through a comprehensive eye exam. Your optometrist will assess vision clarity, eye muscle performance, and how the eyes work together.

Lazy eye generally develops in childhood between birth and 7 years of age. Fortunately, early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent long-term concerns. 

The Alberta Association of Optometry recommends children visit the optometrist annually for a comprehensive eye exam. A child’s first eye exam can occur as young as 6 months.

When is the Most Appropriate Time to Treat Lazy Eye?

While early detection and treatment, ideally before age 7, are believed to offer more favorable outcomes due to the plasticity of the developing brain, it’s never too late to start treatment for it.

New research shows successful results in treating lazy eye in children up to 17 years old. Even adults with lazy eye can experience improvement with treatment, but it may take longer to show progress. 

Treatment Options for Lazy Eye 

The primary goal of treating lazy eye is to encourage the brain to use the weaker eye, and as a result, strengthen its visual acuity. 

There are several treatment options available for correcting lazy eye. A patient’s age, visual clarity, and how long the lazy eye has been present all influence the length of the treatment plan. 

Vision Therapy

There is no age limit for benefiting from vision therapy! 

Vision therapy aims to improve the communication between the eyes and brain by improving the coordination between the eyes to strengthen the weaker eye.  It typically involves a series of exercises and activities designed to train the brain to use both eyes together effectively. 

Vision is a learned skill. Therefore, vision therapy can address visual shortcomings that were not learned. With this therapy, a patient may be able to gain or improve their visual skills. 

Vision therapy can include activities such as focusing on near and far objects, tracking moving objects, and practicing depth perception exercises. The goal of vision therapy is to help the brain develop stronger connections with the weaker eye, ultimately improving vision and reducing the dominance of the stronger eye. 

Vision therapy includes more than visual exercises. It uses additional tools like prism lenses and filters to help strengthen visual skills. 

Prism Eyeglasses

Prism eyeglasses can help improve lazy eye by correcting eye misalignment and promoting better visual coordination. 

Prism eyeglasses contain special lenses that can adjust how light enters the eyes, helping to correct eye alignment. By aligning the eyes properly, prism eyeglasses can encourage both eyes to work together more effectively, which helps to improve vision in the weaker eye. 

Lazy eye often involves a lack of binocular vision, where both eyes fail to work together. Prism eyeglasses can help stimulate binocular vision by assisting the eyes in working together as a team. This can lead to improved depth perception, visual acuity, and overall visual function.


Surgery may be a suitable option to correct amblyopia when other treatment options like vision therapy and prism eyeglasses have been unsuccessful. However, if the eyes are properly aligned surgery is not recommended. 

Surgery is most suitable for individuals whose lazy eye is caused by strabismus (eye turn). The structural issue in the eye causes the lazy eye. Surgery works to realign the eye muscles and correct eye turns to improve alignment and visual clarity. 

A young boy at the eye doctor for vision therapy to help treat lazy eye.

What Happens When Lazy Eye Remains Untreated?

The most significant consequence of untreated lazy eye is the persistence of visual impairment in the affected eye  In severe cases, untreated amblyopia can lead to permanent vision loss.

Lazy eye often results in both eyes working together ineffectively. Untreated lazy eye can further exacerbate this issue, challenging an individual’s depth perception and eye coordination making it difficult to focus on visual tasks. 

This impacts daily activities such as reading, driving, playing sports, and performing tasks that require good depth perception and hand-eye coordination. This can affect academic performance and social interactions which can negatively impact an individual’s self-esteem. 

Book an Appointment

Lazy eye can lead to a variety of visual concerns. Fortunately, it’s never too late to treat lazy eye. With several treatment options available, consult your optometrist to determine the most suitable treatment option.

Contact our team at Prairie Vision to book your next eye exam appointment.

Written by Dr. Tanya Jones-Greenwood

Dr. Tanya Jones-Greenwood grew up on her family farm south of Czar and has been a patient with Prairie Vision since she was a child. After receiving her Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Alberta in 2006 and her Optometry Doctorate from Indiana University in 2010, she returned home.

“I love our local communities and the small-town atmosphere; I couldn’t think of a better place to work and start a family.”

In 2012 she began partial ownership of the office, and in 2014 she became sole owner.

“This is where I grew up. I love caring for the people in my community and want to see us bring big-city technology and skills to our office yet keep the warm and friendly atmosphere.”

Dr. Jones-Greenwood has a special interest in working with children and within the area of vision therapy. She has attended many additional courses listed below. She is a member of the Canadian Optometrists in Vision Therapy and Rehabilitation, the College of Optometrists in Vision Development and the Optometric Extension Program Foundation.

Outside of the office, she enjoys raising her 4 children with her husband and catching up with family and friends. Dr. Jones-Greenwood’s favourite eyewear line is Paradox and Etnia Barcelona.

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