Strabismus and Amblyopia: An Introduction

Girl holding cover over eye during eye exam.

Strabismus and amblyopia are common vision problems in children. If not treated, these problems can permanently affect your child's sight. Your child won't outgrow strabismus or amblyopia. But both can be treated. Early eye exams and the right treatment now can improve your child's vision for life.


Strabismus happens when a child's eyes aren't straight (aligned). This means the eyes don't work together. This can prevent normal vision from developing. If not treated, strabismus may lead to amblyopia.


Amblyopia is poor vision that happens when the brain ignores one or both eyes. This often means only one eye is being used. Amblyopia can be caused by strabismus, nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, or cataracts. If not treated early, amblyopia may keep a child from developing normal vision.

What can be done?

When treated young, a child with strabismus or amblyopia has good chances of overcoming these problems. But it’s vital to get treatment while the eyes are still developing. By helping with treatment, you can increase your child's chances of success.

Your role. Your child's vision will improve only with your help. Take your child to visit the eye healthcare provider as scheduled. Be sure to follow the eye healthcare provider's instructions. Also try to make treatment fun for your child. In an age-appropriate manner, explain the purpose and the goal of the medical visit to your child. When your child is old enough, encourage him or her to write down questions and give the child time to ask the questions during the visit. Talk to the eye healthcare provider about any concerns that you or your child have. 

The eye healthcare provider's role. After doing a full eye exam, the eye healthcare provider will explain your child's vision problems. Then, he or she will recommend the best course of treatment. At follow-up visits, the eye healthcare provider will see how well treatment is working. As your child's vision improves, new treatments will be suggested as needed.

There are no lazy eyes

You may have heard terms such as lazy eye, squint, and wandering eye used to describe strabismus and amblyopia. These terms are unclear. And they don`t take into account how serious strabismus and amblyopia are. It's best to learn the proper names for your child`s vision problems and to use the correct terms with your child, your family, and your child's teachers.