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Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) - What it is

Amblyopia or lazy eyes is a common condition where vision is reduced in one or infrequently in both eyes. Amblyopia develops when an eye does not receive optimal visual stimulation during the early formative years and hence there is poor development of brain-eye neural pathways.

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) - Symptoms

A child with amblyopia has little or no symptoms. Hence, screening is essential to detect it. In Singapore, a vision screen is done at the age of four by the polyclinics. Annual vision testing is also performed in schools for children starting from five years and above. Children with poor vision are then referred to either the refraction clinic at the Health Promotion Board or to a paediatric eye clinic.

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) - How to prevent?

Early detection and treatment of amblyopia is important when the part of the brain responsible for vision is still developing. Routine eye screenings are essential in prevention of amblyopia. Also, eye checks should be done early if a visual problem is suspected (e.g. if the child appears to have a squint or trouble seeing, or if there is obstruction of vision by droopy eyelids, cataract, etc.)

Delayed treatment is mostly unsuccessful and can lead to permanent poor vision.

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) - Causes and Risk Factors

Conditions that interfere with focusing of vision during early childhood can cause amblyopia and these include:

  1. Refractive error is the most common cause of amblyopia in Singapore. Refractive errors that might result in amblyopia include high myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism or a significant difference in spectacle degree requirements between each eye (anisometropia). When vision is poor in an eye due to refractive errors, the brain ignores that eye and vision will not develop properly.
  2. Strabismus is the misalignment of eyes, while one eye may focus straight ahead while the other turns in, out, up, or downwards. To avoid seeing double, the child's brain may ignore the image from the misaligned eye, leading to amblyopia.
  3. Deprivational amblyopia occurs when there is blocked vision due to droopy eyelids or early onset cataract.

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) - Diagnosis

Once a child is referred to the eye clinic, he or she will need to go through an eye examination to determine the cause of amblyopia. Eye alignment is checked, glasses power measured with cycloplegic refraction and a thorough eye examination will be performed.

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) - Treatments

Depending on the cause, the child may require to wear glasses, or commence patching therapy where one eye is patched for a few hours a day. In some cases, surgery might also be indicated (e.g. If there is a visually significant cataract or significant droopy eye lid).


Terry, a 5-year-old child was noted to have a vision of 6/6 in the right eye but 6/15 in the left eye during an eye screening in school. The parents and teachers did not express any concern about his vision. After a complete eye examination, he was found to have astigmatism of -2D in the left eye but his vision only improved to 6/12 with glasses. There was no significant degree in the right eye. Terry was advised to wear glasses full time to encourage the amblyopic left eye ("lazy eye") to see better. After wearing glasses for three months, his vision in the left eye has improved to 6/9. In order to stimulate vision development in the amblyopic left eye further, patching of stronger right eye for 2 hours each day was started. After 4 months, Terry had equal and good vision in both the eyes with glasses.

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) - Preparing for surgery

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) - Post-surgery care

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) - Other Information

The information provided is not intended as medical advice. Terms of use. Information provided by SingHealth