Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Ideally, lazy eye treatment begins in early childhood — when the complicated connections between the eye and the brain are forming. Depending on the cause and the degree to which your child's vision is affected, treatment options may include:

  • Corrective eyewear. If a condition such as nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism is contributing to lazy eye, your doctor will likely prescribe corrective glasses or contact lenses. Sometimes corrective eyewear is all that's needed.
  • Eye patches. To stimulate the weaker eye, your child may wear an eye patch over the stronger eye. Most children older than age 4 will benefit from wearing the patch three to six hours a day. This helps the part of the brain that manages vision to develop more completely.
  • Eyedrops. A daily or twice-weekly drop of a drug called atropine can temporarily blur vision in the stronger eye. This will encourage your child to use his or her weaker eye, and offers an alternative to wearing a patch. Drops may not work as well when the stronger eye is nearsighted.
  • Surgery. If your child's eyes cross or wander apart, your doctor may recommend surgical repair for the eye muscles. Your child may also need surgery if he or she has droopy eyelids or cataracts.

For some children, glasses or contact lenses alone will improve lazy eye, but other children also need to use a patch or eyedrops. Patches and eyedrops appear to work equally well except when the stronger eye is nearsighted.

A number of "active" treatments such as drawing, puzzles or computer games — sometimes in addition to patching or eyedrops — are now available. However, good evidence does not yet exist for their effectiveness compared with "passive" treatments such as eyedrops and patching.

For most children with lazy eye, proper treatment improves vision within weeks to several months — and the earlier the treatment is started, the better. Although research suggests that the treatment window extends through the teenage years, results are better when treatment begins in early childhood.

July 03, 2013