It's important to start treatment for lazy eye as soon as possible in childhood, when the complicated connections between the eye and the brain are forming. The best results occur when treatment starts before age 7, although half of children between the ages of 7 and 17 respond to treatment.
Treatment options depend on the cause of lazy eye and on how much the condition is affecting your child's vision. Your doctor might recommend:
- Corrective eyewear. Glasses or contact lenses can correct problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism that result in lazy eye.
- Eye patches. To stimulate the weaker eye, your child may wear an eye patch over the stronger eye. The patch is generally worn for two to six hours a day.
- Bangerter filter. This special filter is placed on the eyeglass lens of the stronger eye. The filter blurs the stronger eye and, like an eye patch, works to stimulate the weaker eye.
- Eyedrops. A twice-weekly eyedrop of a medication called atropine (Isopto Atropine) can temporarily blur vision in the stronger eye. This will encourage your child to use the weaker eye, and offers an alternative to wearing a patch. Side effects include sensitivity to light.
- 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.
Activity-based treatments — such as drawing, doing puzzles or playing computer games — are now available. The effectiveness of adding these activities to other therapies hasn't been proved.
For most children with lazy eye, proper treatment improves vision within weeks to several months. Treatment might last from six months to two years.
It's important for your child to be monitored for recurrence of lazy eye — which can happen in up to 25 percent of children with the condition. If lazy eye recurs, treatment will need to start again.