Is there any hope for someone with a lazy eye to eventually achieve full binocularity?
September 21, 2004 5:47 PM   Subscribe

Is there any hope for someone with a lazy eye to eventually achieve full binocularity?

I was cross-eyed during my very early childhood, but had that corrected at a young age. Since then I've had a lazy eye, and a couple more operations on my eyes to try to align my eyes. My lazy eye isn't nearly as obvious anymore to people I'm conversing with, but I still only really see from one eye at once. This means my depth perception is very poor, and so is everything that demands it (catching, most hand-eye co-ordination).

Is it possible for someone like me to eventually gain binocular vision? Should I be wearing an eye patch to exercise my other eye, or what? I was hoping to get a recreational pilot's license, but I'm afraid I couldn't safely pilot an aeroplane unless my eyesight is corrected.
posted by Evstar to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Evstar, you should visit an opthamologist about this...

I do recall children, when I was a child, wearing patches for what I recall being "lazy eye".
posted by shepd at 6:19 PM on September 21, 2004

Evstar, I was never cross-eyed, but had a moderately lazy eye as a child.

So, I was sheparded off to an opthamologist, and made to do "eye exercises." The one I remember best involved a string with a graduated series of beads that was tied to my bedroom doorknob. I had to hold it straight in front of my eyes and focus on each bead in turn. I also had to wear a patch at home for periods. It was extremely tedious, and went on for at least a year, but it worked.

My left eye still gets a bit lazy when I'm tired, but never noticeably to anyone else, and never to the point where I can't function normally. So, it is possible to improve it with exercise, but it's probably easier for a child to do.

See a specialist, of course, for a better answer than my anecdote, but I wanted to give you some hope. Like all medical technology, this can only have improved, and you've got nothing to lose by making an appointment. Best of luck.
posted by melissa may at 6:21 PM on September 21, 2004

I believe this has to be established and wired in at a young age. I have exactly the same arrangement as you, and I don't think it can be learned after early childhood.

A friend had an eye injury when she was small, and long afterwards only had partial use of the injured eye. She did not recover binocularity even after a cataract operation returned the eye to proper functioning later. This even though she wasn't born amblyopic like you and me.

I tell people never to toss anything to me, because I simply can't catch things, and I don't play games involving catching or hitting flying objects (frisbees are worse than balls). But I can't say it's had much of an effect otherwise: a recent study suggests Rembrandt was one of us, so there may be upsides. I make my living designing visuals and doing photography, and I don't wear glasses.
posted by zadcat at 6:22 PM on September 21, 2004

My cousin did exercises for years to try to correct it when she was young, too. This might help a little info- and linkswise, but there's definitely no lasik for it or anything. It's very very common.
posted by amberglow at 6:23 PM on September 21, 2004

Supposedly if lazy eye isn't corrected by about the age of 9, it is not correctable. However, I'm not a doctor, so I might be unaware of new techniques in the field.

My lazy eye wasn't diagnosed until I was 17. It doesn't show because my eyes track together OK -- I don't have the cross-eye thing, just the lazy eye. (Sometimes people confuse the two conditions.)

My lazy eye is far-sighted and my other eye is near-sighted -- this mismatch is the likely root cause of my amblyopia.
posted by litlnemo at 6:27 PM on September 21, 2004

zadcat, that you don't even wear glasses amazes me, when I could kill an entire anthill from the right angle at noon with mine. I got them right around my therapy at 7, so I always associated the two, but now I'll have to check whether near-sightedness correlates to lazy eye. I'm glad you posted.
posted by melissa may at 6:33 PM on September 21, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for the help, everyone. Zadcat's link was especially interesting/encouraging. Certainly FPP worthy.

I'm going to set an appointment with my opthamologist to discuss it; I just hope that if there's a sollution it doesn't involve going under the knife again.

I have another question: Have any of you with this condition had a hard time driving a car?
posted by Evstar at 7:43 PM on September 21, 2004

About 25 years ago I underwent surgery to correct this, and have yet to restore perfectly binocular vision. The most dramatic improvement came about a year ago, when I had my prescription slightly modified and it suddenly felt like I was getting more vision. For the most part, though, my brain has spent over 30 years ignoring the input to my left eye. That's not something easily compensated for.

For what it's worth, I have never had trouble operating a vehicle, although it's damn hard to do things like thread needles or trim beards.
posted by majick at 7:59 PM on September 21, 2004

Let me just commend you on the lovely utterance of "binocularity". It's my new favorite word, thank you.
posted by kokogiak at 8:06 PM on September 21, 2004

Evstar, I'm so glad you posted this 'cause often I think that perhaps I'm the only one in the world with this problem (I used to drive 75 miles to see my childhood eye doctor until he retired ... then explaining the whole thing to my new doc was a looonnng visit).

Short answer -- I had three operations before the age of 8, and while my eyes both track now, my brain (the important bit here) just never learned to interpret images in anything close to binocularity. I've now seen about three specialists, and they all agree ... its just not possible to retrain your brain in this way once you're an adult.
posted by anastasiav at 9:19 PM on September 21, 2004

I went in for an eye exam last year and the doctor told me I had a lazy eye. I'm 39, so I can't do anything about it. It was really kind of a pain in the ass finding that out at this stage in my life.

I hadn't really noticed it before then, but now I'm self-conscious of it and it think about it from time to time. It did help explain how, even though I consider myself left-handed, I do activities that require aiming (throwing darts, shooting a basketball or gun) right-handed.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:08 PM on September 21, 2004

I have a very mild version of this condition, too, from birth (the actual process of birth - not genetic - I was pulled out with forceps and one of my ocular muscles was deadened).

It was bad enough where I wasn't able to get into any of the Navy's aviation programs (not even as a Naval Flight Officer, one of the backseat guys (and this turned out to be a blessing in disguise anyway)). However, they didn't test anything having to do with stereoscopic vision when I was getting my civilian student pilot's license, so unless you've been told otherwise, it may not even be an issue. I am still poor at sports that are aided by stereoscopic vision - catching the softball, or tennis, etc., but I still try to play them anyway for the fun of it.

Do the best you can with what you're given, I say.
posted by greasepig at 11:12 PM on September 21, 2004

Surgery - worked for me - kind of
Blocking your good eye with a patch - sucks, but seems to work.

I was always that kid in the outfield who let the ball float over his head and into the grass on an "easy" pop fly. Surgery got the eyes to work together, but still there were still stereoscopic issues. Recently, an optometrist at one of those cheesy chains (don't ask) in an attempt to forestall the dreaded bifocals gave me a scrip which favors my weak eye for reading and my strong eye for distance. Given that I read too much (sorry Mom but that is indeed possible) I have noticed improved vision out of the weak eye, as if my brain realizes that it exists. So, even at my advanced age I seem to be able to do something about it.
posted by caddis at 12:12 AM on September 22, 2004

I'm also surprised to discover that amblyopia and myopia are not inextricably linked.
I was diagnosed at the last possible moment (9 nearly 10) and, while I can't catch a ball, I think that's basic nerdliness rather than poor depth perception. I don't remember any exercises but I did have to wear a patch, it wasn't much fun until my mom procured a black pirate-looking one to cover the more bandage-like one I had been wearing.
My vision is approximately twice as bad in the formerly lazy eye (L ~ -4, R ~ -8, IANAO, ILMP) so if I take my glasses off, my brain uses only the left one.
posted by Octaviuz at 12:34 AM on September 22, 2004

*sniff sniff* And all this time I thought it was just me....

For me, it was a congenital malformation of the optical nerve in my left eye. Not found until I was about 7, but at the time it caused enough concern to send me to a neurologist.

My eye was not "lazy" when I was a kid, but over the years has started to "wander". Same problems with depth perception, difficulties with ball sports, etc. (though somehow I turned out to be good at parallel parking).
posted by briank at 10:17 AM on September 22, 2004

Similar thing here - didn't realise it was at all common..

I seem to be able to catch ok when I don't look at whatever I'm meant to be catching straight on, but I can't hit a tennis ball to save my life. Badminton is reasonably ok with some practice (initially I can't judge the distance between me and the shuttlecock), "Jaws"-style 3D glasses make no discernable difference and I've never been able to see the image in one of those dot stereogram things.

I've often wondered how much better it would be if my eyes worked perfectly.

(Sorry, no solutions or suggestions - I'm just here to read with interest.)
posted by cell at 3:14 PM on September 22, 2004

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