The Lazy Eye and Double Vision

What is a lazy eye?  

Some people refer to an eye that crosses as a “lazy eye.”  Some others refer to a droopy eye as a lazy eye.  The most widely accepted definition corresponds to an eye that does not see well because, for some reason it has not been used in childhood.  The term AMBLYOPIA is usually used to designate the poor vision in that eye.  Now there are many reasons for developing amblyopia.  Not having had appropriate glasses in childhood is one possible reason.  Another is having had crossed eyes (strabismus) so that the deviated eye does not really focus on the target. Another can be a droopy eyelid that deprives the eye from the view and gets the brain to become unaccustomed to seeing with that eye.   In 1981 the Nobel Prize was awarded to Hubel and Wiesel for work showing how the wiring and organization of the brain was related to vision deprivation.  This work is directly relevant to the understanding of the “lazy eye.”

Lazy eye in children, why should we care.

The most common reason seniors deal with a lazy eye is through interacting with children, grandchildren or friends’ children and grandchildren.   If a child with crossed eyes does not get attention, the opportunity may be lost to get good vision in that eye.   Something needs to be done usually before age 9, although there are some rare cases that have seen improvement in the teenage years, once treated.   The most important aspect to correct is the vision itself, usually by giving the appropriate glasses and forcing the “lazy” eye not to be so lazy by patching the other (good) eye.   The crossed eye aspects themselves can be corrected even past the younger ages and even in seniors.  This brings us to the subject of crossed eyes and double vision in seniors.

Double vision in seniors

One of the great mysteries of the brain is that most of us do not see double, despite the fact that we have two eyes!    There are two separate images of each object at which we look and two little cables that take each image back from each eye to the brain.  Somehow the brain “fuses” these two images into one.   A slight imbalance in the alignment of  the eyes can cause this delicate fusion to break down.    If you or a loved one see double, call me (just once!) and be prepared to answer these questions when you come in to see me (did the double vision happen suddenly or has it been there for a long time?  Do you see double even if you cover the other eye or do you have to have BOTH eyes open in order to have double vision?  Is the double vision side-to-side or up-and-down?  Answering these questions may go a long way to clarify the reason for the double vision.    For example, if you see double out of one eye only, you may need some corrective glasses, or you may be developing a cataract.   Some other reasons for double vision in seniors include diabetes, high blood pressure and more rarely, strokes or tumors.

Checking and double checking

So pay attention to the grandkids and watch if one of their eyes deviates, if they are squinting or if they seem to have difficulty seeing. And if you see more of them then you seem to remember, maybe it is your eyes that need to be checked.

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