As one of the most common optical conditions, a lazy eye affects around 2 to 3% of children as they develop in their early years. One question we’re frequently asked here at Optegra is whether laser eye surgery can correct the lazy eye and restore vision to normal.
In order to answer this question properly, it is necessary to understand exactly what we mean by a lazy eye, establishing the difference between this and other optical conditions.
What is a lazy eye?
Essentially, a lazy eye (the medical term is amblyopia) is caused when the eye and brain are not working properly together. In that sense the terminology is a little misleading, as the condition has as much to do with neurological issues as the eye itself.
There are two primary causes of amblyopia. The first is a misalignment of the eyes, known technically as strabismus. The second is when the eyes have differing amounts of refractive error, called anisometropia. This then causes the brain to favour the stronger eye, resulting in a loss of vision in the weaker eye over time.
When does it occur?
As mentioned above, roughly two or three children in every hundred are born with some kind of discrepancy with their eyes. If left untreated, this can develop into amblyopia over time.
These refractive errors or misalignments can be treated effectively using glasses or patches designed to stimulate the weaker eye. However, by the age of seven some of the pathways that link the eye to the brain are fully developed. If the balance is not redressed by this age it may be too late and the lazy eye will persist into adulthood.
Can laser eye surgery correct a lazy eye?
Once these pathways have been established, it is generally not possible to correct a lazy eye through any means (which includes laser eye surgery). That is because the problematic vision is caused at a neurological level. No amount of treatment to the eye will affect the way your neural pathways use your eyes.
Laser eye surgery could be used to improve the vision in the lazy eye, as it could in any regular eye. But if the brain underuses this organ, it won’t make much difference to the patient.
However, if you have a lazy eye and depend on glasses or lenses, laser eye surgery can boost your current vision so that you no longer require them as much. That’s why many patients with amblyopia still opt for laser eye treatment, even though it cannot correct the neurological root of the condition.
What you need to think about
It is important to remember, however, that each individual case is different and only a consultation with an ophthalmic surgeon can give you a clear picture of your circumstances.
In cases where the lazy eye is not significantly weaker, surgeons may only opt to operate on the good eye.
You should also remember that while generally a very safe procedure, with a very small percentage of complications, there are associated risks with any surgery.
The exception that proves the rule
There is one case where laser eye surgery might be effective for treating the development of a lazy eye. If one eye has more near or far sightedness, or even astigmatism than the other, the brain may begin to ignore it, leading to a form amblyopia developing later in life.
Using glasses to correct this can be uncomfortable because of the unequal magnification. This can lead to nausea and doesn’t offer a lasting solution. Contact lenses may be a better option because the issue is to do with the refraction of the lenses but it is still not ideal.
However, it might be the case that laser eye surgery is the best solution to correct refractive errors in order to prevent a lazy eye developing. If you are at risk of developing a form of amblyopia if you don’t wear glasses or lenses then this may be the treatment for you.
The only way to know for sure is to make an appointment with an Optegra surgeon to chat about your options.
Generally speaking, a lazy eye is not something that can be cured with laser eye surgery. But the treatment can help to prevent deterioration and maintain current levels of eyesight, as well as reducing dependence on glasses or lenses.
Get the right advice
You might have heard or even seen for yourself online that you can treat a lazy eye with laser eye surgery, but you need to be in full possession of the facts before getting your hopes up.
If you have suffered from an uncorrected lazy eye since childhood, the treatment will make little to no difference beyond boosting eyesight in your good eye. But there are circumstances where it can help to prevent the development of a lazy eye later in life. If you need further advice on whether lazy eye treatment could help you, request a consultation to chat with one of our expert ophthalmic surgeons.