What does a contact lens do for an amblyopic eye?

David R. Demartini, MD
An amblyopic eye is an eye that did not learn to see normally as a child. All eyes need to develop good vision with use during infancy and young childhood. If a child does not develop this good vision before about age five years then it is very difficult to ever have good vsion in the effected eye and it is called amblyopic ("lazy") eye. There are many reason for any eye to become amblyopic but common ones are infantile cataract or corneal opacity, developmental abnormalities of the eye or most commonly very different vision correction in the amblyopic eye compared to the normal eye.
Whenever there is concern that an eye is becoming amblyopic, eye doctors try to encourage as much use and the best correction of this eye as possible. Often this involves patching of the good eye to encourage its use. A contact lens helps the development of vision during this early time by correcting either far or nearsightedness. A contact lens on the amblyopic eye tries to provide the best correction possible withoutthe need for other devices such as glasses. Often only the amblyopic eye needs vision correction when the "normal eye' does not. Hence the patient can get the best vision from the amblyopic eyewithout the need for glasses.This is especially helpful in a small child that likes to remove any correcting glasses. 

A contact lens is often used in the amblyopic eye of a patient when that eye has a large refractive error and the fellow eye has minimal refractive error. In theory, such a patient may be better treated with a contact lens, but that remains to be proven.

Some physicians feel that correcting the eye may prevent the development of a misalignment, so that is often the reason for persisting in using the contact lens. However, we do not know if that helps. If you experience some benefit with the lens, I would continue; if not, stop. Whatever you do, you should wear protective spectacle lenses at all times for the good eye.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.