LASIK eye surgery cannot fix a lazy eye, is a common vision problem that occurs when one of your eyes is significantly stronger than the other. The eye imbalance affects the development of your sight during childhood and causes your brain to avoid forming critical pathways between your eyes and brain.
Someone with a lazy eye condition that does not receive treatment during childhood often loses some or all of their sight in that eye as an adult.
LASIK may be able to help the vision in the weak eye if the weakness stems from a refractive error. Any elevated vision will show up in the weaker eye when the stronger eye is closed.
What Causes a Lazy Eye?
A lazy eye, also called amblyopia, is caused by an extreme imbalance in strength between a person’s eyes during childhood. When one of your eyes cannot keep up with the other, your brain relies on the stronger eye for visual input. This robs the weaker eye of the chance to develop properly through regular use.
There are three types of amblyopia — strabismus amblyopia, refractive amblyopia and deprivation amblyopia.
Strabismus amblyopia is when a child’s eye muscles are not strong enough to support natural eye movement, the eye with the weakest muscles may drift out of alignment with the other eye. The misaligned eye becomes difficult to control and does not develop properly due to a lack of use.
This type of lazy eye is diagnosed when one eye has significantly more severe refractive errors than the other eye. The weaker eye may become a lazy eye.
This is one of the most severe forms of amblyopia and must be treated immediately to prevent full vision loss in the affected eye. It happens when one of an infant’s eyes become injured or diseased, their brain may quickly disable the pathways to that eye.
A lazy eye is not the same as strabismus (misaligned eyes). Strabismus may accompany a lazy eye, but this is not always the case. Your eye doctor will tell you if you have a lazy eye during your routine eye exam.
How Can LASIK Help with a Lazy Eye?
LASIK cannot correct most cases of lazy eye because the brains of children with a lazy eye develop differently because of their impaired sight.
Because the lazy eye’s performance is significantly worse than its counterpart, affected children’s brains do not prioritize it when building the pathways that connect the eyes to the brain. As a result, the connections that allow that eye to transmit visual information do not reach full maturity.
When these children grow into adults, their brains may have permanently blocked off some or all sight in their lazy eye.
LASIK cannot restore the lost brain pathways that are responsible for much of the vision loss associated with this condition. However, LASIK may be able to improve a lazy eye’s sight if you can see out of that eye with your other eye closed. Having sight in the weaker eye indicates that the brain pathways that collect and transmit visual information from the eye are still active. If that is true, LASIK can correct any refractive errors that are impacting your sight in that eye.
If you are interested in treating your lazy eye using LASIK surgery, consult your eye doctor. They will be able to tell you whether LASIK could improve the performance of your lazy eye.
How to Find Out if LASIK Can Help with Your Lazy Eye
The only way to know if LASIK can improve symptoms of your lazy eye is to ask your eye doctor. Your doctor will want to examine you in person to confirm the state of your eyes before offering any advice about LASIK as a repair.
Use the information from your doctors to determine whether LASIK seems like a worthwhile treatment for you.
Alternative to LASIK for Lazy Eye Treatment
If LASIK cannot help your eye or you cannot afford LASIK surgery, there may be other treatments you can try.
In adults, the only alternative treatments for lazy eye are glasses or contact lenses. They correct some of the vision problems in the lazy eye and allow you to see more clearly. Glasses and contact only work if your lazy eye does not have extensive vision loss.
Treatments for lazy eye in children enjoy more success because their brains develop through early adulthood. Doctors can try various treatment approaches for kids, including:
- Eye patches
- Eyeglasses (if the lazy eye is caused by a significant refractive error)
- A Bangerter filter (a special filter that can be placed on the lens of the child’s eyeglasses to reduce vision in the stronger eye)
- Atropine eyedrops (vision-reducing eyedrops that can be applied to the stronger eye)
- Eye muscle surgery
The earlier you implement these treatments, the better. If a child’s lazy eye is treated quickly while their brain is still developing, they will rarely suffer the vision loss that makes this condition so difficult to treat in adults.
Who Is the Best LASIK Eye Surgery Candidate?
You are an ideal candidate for LASIK surgery for your lazy eye if you:
- Have at least partial vision in the lazy eye
- Have little to no strabismus
- Do not have a drastic difference in strength between your eyes
- Want to improve vision problems in the lazy eye or reduce the double vision it is causing
If you think this list describes you, ask your eye doctor about LASIK for your lazy eye. They will give you a better idea of what to expect should you choose to undergo the surgery.
Can LASIK make a lazy eye worse?
If you are an adult and still have sight in your lazy eye, LASIK can make your lazy eye worse. However, it is much more likely to improve your vision in that eye than it is to damage it.
Can lazy eye be fixed in adults?
Eye doctors, even eye surgeons, cannot fix lazy eye in adults. However, they sometimes can bolster the vision in a lazy eye. Any vision loss that accompanies a lazy eye cannot be fully corrected. LASIK may reduce a weak eye’s dependence on glasses and improve double vision and depth perception, but that eye will never see as well as its counterpart.
How much does it cost to fix a lazy eye?
Lazy eye cannot be fixed in adult patients. The cost of lazy eye treatment in children depends on what caused the vision imbalance to develop. In many cases, a child’s lazy eye can be treated with a simple eyepatch that costs less than $10.
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Amblyopia. (January 2017). Nemours KidsHealth.
Types of Amblyopia. (October 2015). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Visual Outcome after LASIK in Adults with Amblyopia. (May 2004). Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.
Is surgery possible for adults with amblyopia? (November 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
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Last Updated April 1, 2022
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