Blog Hero

When Is It Too Late To Treat Lazy Eye?

Young smiling girl wearing corrective glasses with an occluder as she holds her hands up to the frames.

When Is It Too Late To Treat Lazy Eye?

Amblyopia, or lazy eye, can go undiagnosed for years if not caught during an eye exam. Is there a point when it’s too late to treat this condition

Continue reading to learn more about amblyopia, including what it is, how it develops, and when it may be too late to treat. 

What is Amblyopia? 

Amblyopia is a condition where one eye does not see nearly as well as the other, even when wearing glasses. This usually occurs due to abnormal visual development during childhood. The brain will then favor the stronger eye, which can cause vision in the weaker eye to worsen. 

This condition usually develops between the ages of 6 to 9. If amblyopia is left untreated, the brain ignores images from the weaker eye.

Amblyopia Symptoms 

Because one eye has issues, the other usually has good vision and takes over visual tasks. Unless something covers the dominant eye, someone will rarely notice they have a visual problem. 

A child with amblyopia may not realize they can’t see effectively out of both eyes. They may:

  • Have trouble with depth perception 
  • Squint or shut one eye
  • Tilt their head

A lazy eye is usually only diagnosable during a comprehensive eye exam. What causes this condition to develop? 

What Causes Amblyopia? 

Anything obstructing vision in either eye during a child’s development can lead to amblyopia. The brain suppresses images coming from the weakened eye, worsening vision. 

This vision loss can happen due to an eye turn or an uncorrected refractive error. Someone with amblyopia doesn’t have a blind eye. This weaker eye can still see, but the image isn’t clear. 

Can You Prevent Amblyopia? 

There is no way you can prevent amblyopia from developing, but you can stop it from getting worse. The best way to catch amblyopia before it affects vision is during regular eye exams. Children should have an eye exam by the time they turn 6 months and again before age 3

Can Amblyopia Be Too Late to Treat? 

The ideal age to treat amblyopia is before age 7. This age is good because the connections between the brain and eyes are still developing. However, it’s never too late to receive treatment for amblyopia. 

Treatment can happen at any age; however, it can be more difficult after childhood. Around 50% of children between 7 and 17 respond to treatment. How can your optometrist address amblyopia? 

Portrait image of a young brunette boy wearing a green soccer themed eye patch and smiling widely with his mouth wide open

Amblyopia Treatments 

Treatment for amblyopia has 2 different approaches. Your optometrist can attempt to treat the underlying eye problem, or they can address the affected eye and improve its vision. Amblyopia treatment is most effective for younger children, but any age can benefit. 


Glasses can help treat the underlying eye problem affecting amblyopia. This treatment can help correct refractive errors such as: 

Someone must wear glasses at all times so your optometrist can monitor how effectively they’re improving vision problems in the lazy eye. Glasses can address an eye-turning problem. 

Sometimes glasses are the only needed treatment for amblyopia, but this isn’t always the case. 

Eye Patches 

Treatment for amblyopia can include forcing the weaker eye to work. Eye patches can help with this goal. They block out the dominant eye, making the brain rely on getting information from the weaker eye. 

Someone typically wears the eye patch for a couple of hours each day, but treatment can vary. 

Atropine Eye Drops

Atropine helps dilate your eyes, causing vision to blur when looking at close-up objects. Your optometrist might use atropine eye drops to blur vision in the unaffected eye. Blurring vision in one eye forces the lazy eye to work harder, similar to how an eye patch works. 


Eye surgery can be an option to help realign the eyes. However, surgery may or may not improve vision. Your optometrist can determine if this is a beneficial option. 

Vision Therapy 

Vision therapy is a form of physical therapy for your eyes. Different exercises help your optometrist train your visual system. These exercises may include

  • Therapeutic lenses
  • Prisms
  • Filters
  • Balance boards
  • Electronic targets 

Vision therapy meets the individual’s specific goals and needs. Treatment plans can differ from person to person. 

The overall goal of the chosen exercises is to help strengthen the visual system and improve muscle control in the eyes. The exercise program will encourage the simultaneous use of both eyes and discourage your brain from suppressing information from the weaker eye. 

While amblyopia treatment is most effective for younger children, your optometrist can help address this condition no matter your age. Whether it’s through eye patches, glasses, or vision therapy, there is an amblyopia treatment available for your needs. 

It’s Not Too Late to Improve Your Vision

No matter the severity, no one should have worsened vision due to amblyopia. Improved vision is achievable with help from your eye doctor. If you or someone you know has amblyopia, contact your optometrist.

Written by Dr. Cheryl Everitt

Cheryl M. Everitt, OD, received her Doctor of Optometry degree from the Southern California College of Optometry in Fullerton, California in 1994. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from California State University, Fullerton. Dr. Everitt takes a special interest in treating patients with a variety of difficult eye conditions, such as chronic headaches and migraines. Dr. Everitt has been a conference speaker on topics ranging from contact lenses to practice management to trigeminal dysphoria. She has also participated in a mobile eye clinic in Riverside, and medical missions to Mexico. Dr. Everitt is one of the original founders of 20/20 Vision Associates Optometry and has practiced for 25 years. She was an associate research scientist for 4 years prior to becoming an optometrist. She is also an active member of her church.
instagram facebook facebook2 pinterest twitter google-plus google linkedin2 yelp youtube phone location calendar share2 link star-full star-half star star-half chevron-right chevron-left chevron-down chevron-up envelope fax