What Is Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) And How Common Is It?

Question: What is amblyopia (lazy eye) and how common is it?

Answer: Amblyopia is a poor vision in usually one eye that develops during childhood. The sense of vision is unique among the five senses that we all have. During childhood from birth through about age 10, it is critical that the eyes receive the proper visual experience so that the brain actually learns how to see 20/20, which is perfect vision. If there is any impediment to the visual input during this critical period, then amblyopia, or poor vision in one eye, can develop.

An analogy that I'd like to share with parents is that if you don't use it -- that is, vision -- you lose it. Amblyopia is very treatable and is a major public health problem in the childhood population. Amblyopia can affect up to about 5 percent of the population in the United States. The two main causes of amblyopia include strabismus, or eye misalignment, and a difference in the power between the two eyes, also known as anisometropia. Appropriate referral to a pediatric ophthalmologist will then give the child the best chance to have this condition treated.