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When Is It Too Late to Treat Lazy Eye?

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A boy wearing special eyewear covering his left eye and wearing a blue and red colored headset while undergoing treatment for Amblyopia in front of a computer.

There is a widespread belief that a lazy eye can only be treated until the age of 8. Unfortunately, people who are older than that may be denied access to effective treatment due to this myth, which has been thoroughly researched and proven to be false.

Lazy eye treatment should begin as soon as possible, ideally before the age of 7. Although treating this condition before this age is usually more effective, it’s never too late to treat lazy eye.

The best thing you can do is to stay on top of your child’s regular eye exams. That way, lazy eye is more likely to be diagnosed early, and you can begin treatments to help your child’s vision. 

What Is Lazy Eye?

Lazy eye, or amblyopia, is a common condition that affects the development of vision in one or both eyes.

Lazy eye can cause the brain to prefer one eye over the other, resulting in blurred vision in the affected eye. In this case, each eye receives its own image that doesn’t match the other, and the brain shuts down and suppresses the image from the weaker eye to compensate.

One of the most noticeable signs of lazy eye is a difference in the visual acuity, or sharpness of vision, between the 2 eyes. This can be detected with a comprehensive eye exam.

If lazy eye is suspected, your optometrist may perform additional tests to confirm the diagnosis and determine the appropriate treatment. This may include tests to measure visual acuity, eye movement, and eye alignment. Your eye doctor may:

  • Use an eye chart to test your vision
  • Shine a light in each of your eyes
  • Put drops in your eyes to dilate your pupils
  • Cover one eye at a time to asses eye tracking

Strabismic amblyopia is the most noticeable type of lazy eye because one eye wanders outwards, inwards, up, or down, but many cases of lazy eye can be difficult to detect without an eye exam. 

Early signs of amblyopia in children can include:

  • Tilting their head to see
  • Disinterest or difficulty reading or writing
  • Having trouble with depth perception
  • Squinting or shutting one eye

When Can It Be Treated?

While lazy eye can be treated effectively in young children, it’s never too late to treat this eye condition. 

The effectiveness of treatment may decrease as your child gets older because the brain becomes more “hardwired” and less able to adapt to visual changes as a child grows. While it’s never too late to treat lazy eye, it won’t go away on its own. But, there are different treatment options available at any stage of life.

A female patient wearing visual reality goggles is undergoing visual therapy.

How to Treat Lazy Eye

Methods for treating amblyopia aim to train the brain to use the weaker eye. Among the options are:

  • Vision therapy
  • Eye patching
  • Glasses & contact lenses
  • Eye drops

Vision Therapy

Vision therapy helps children’s or adults’ visual abilities by utilizing a series of personalized exercises to improve eye coordination, depth perception, and vision suppression. Suppression occurs when the brain stops using the weaker eye, resulting in vision loss.

Eye Patching

Amblyopia treatment may include using an eye patch to force the weaker eye to work harder. Patches reduce visual input in the dominant eye, forcing the brain to rely on information from the weaker eye.

The eye patch is worn for a duration of time recommended by your optometrist. Treatment can vary and may be used in tandem with vision therapy.

Glasses & Contact Lenses

Glasses or contact lenses can help correct lazy eye problems caused by nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism.


Atropine eye drops can temporarily blur vision in the stronger eye. The drops encourage your child to use the weaker eye, providing an alternative to a patch. Side effects can include light sensitivity and eye irritation.

What Happens If You Don’t Treat Lazy Eye

Untreated lazy eye can lead to permanent vision loss in the affected eye, as well as reduced depth perception and difficulty with fine-motor tasks.

It can also lead to decreased self-esteem and social difficulties, as children with lazy eye may have trouble participating in activities that require good vision, such as sports or reading.

If you’re looking for ways to help treat lazy eye, whether for your child or yourself, it’s never too late. Book an appointment with the team at Foresee Eyecare so we can help determine which treatment option is right for you.

Written by Dr. Miranda Mok

Dr. Miranda Mok graduated cum laude with a Doctorate of Optometry from the Illinois College of Optometry. She was among a select group of students selected to complete a clinical honour’s program where she received additional training in pediatrics/binocular vision as well as cornea/specialty contact lenses. Dr. Mok completed clinical externships at multiple hospitals and has worked in private practice and at refractive surgical centres providing LASIK/PRK/RLE/corneal cross-linking consultations and post-operative care.

Dr. Mok provides family eye care for people of all ages, including infants and toddlers. She has a special interest in helping children with learning-related vision problems, which are often overlooked or mislabelled, and provides one-on-one vision therapy services at the clinic.

Dr. Mok has participated in Special Olympics eye screenings and pediatric outreach programs and has also travelled on mission trips to provide examinations and glasses to countries with limited access to eye care.

Dr. Mok is a member in good standing of the Canadian Optometric Association, the Ontario Association of Optometrists, and is an Associate Member of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD).

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