Lazy Eye Exercises to Correct Amblyopia

amblyopia vision therapy

Lazy eye, also known as amblyopia, is a common cause of vision problems in children. Most often, this occurs in one eye, although sometimes both eyes can be affected. When it happens in one eye, the brain favors the normally functioning eye.

Diagnosing amblyopia early, ideally, before the age of 7, is vital to prevent vision from getting worse. Screening and intervention can prevent irreversible loss of vision, difficulties with fine and gross motor skills, reduced school performance, frustration, and lowered self-esteem. This might sound scary, but don’t worry—amblyopia treatments are very effective when started early enough.

Eye exercises are among the methods of therapy for treating lazy eye.

Conditions that can cause the appearance of lazy eye include:

  • Refractive amblyopia—one eye is stronger than the other
  • Untreated strabismus (crossed eyes)
  • Cataracts and other visual obstructions
  • Convergence insufficiency—when eyes do not work together during close up tasks

How Exercises Help

Eye exercises can strengthen the weak eye, encouraging better communication between the eye and the brain. Performing activities that require the eyes to work together to complete tasks may improve lazy eye.

The effectiveness of eye exercises is under debate, and they should be combined with other therapies for the best results. Depending on the cause of amblyopia, your doctor may also recommend prescription glasses, patching, and blurring.

Some experts believe eye exercises should be combined with patching of the stronger eye so the weaker eye will work harder.

Be sure you have a diagnosis before doing exercises to correct lazy eye. They can cause vision problems otherwise.

Types of Exercises

Some commonly enjoyable tasks can be done while wearing a patch over the stronger eye. Examples include:

  • Coloring in the lines
  • Dot-to-dots
  • Puzzles
  • Reading books
  • Handheld computer games


As part of an overall treatment plan, an ophthalmologist or optometrist may prescribe specific vision therapy eye exercises to do at home. Be sure to relax your eyes in between each exercise by closing your eyes for a few minutes or looking at something far away from you without straining. 

Some of these exercises may include:

Smooth Convergence

For this exercise, you will need a pen or pencil.

  1. Hold a pen or pencil at arm’s length in front of your face.

  2. Maintain a straight head.

  3. Move the pen or pencil toward your nose slowly while keeping your focus on the pen so that it is clear and single.

  4. As soon as the pen starts to seem as though it is doubled, stop moving it towards you.

  5. Attempt to force the double image of the pen into one using your eye muscles while keeping your eyes focused on the pen.

  6. Once the pen becomes a single image, continue moving it towards your nose, aiming to keep it as one image the entire time.

  7. If you cannot create one image with the pen, move it slightly away from your face and try again.

  8. It is normal for your eyes to feel strained during this exercise.

Dot Card


For this exercise, you will need a dot card designed for this activity.

  1. Bend the dot card, so it forms a wide-angled v-shape. Place one end of the card on the tip of your nose, angled a little downwards.

  2. Focus on the dot farthest away while trying to see the dot as one and not doubled.

  3. When you can see the dot as one, the dots closer to you should appear doubled. You should see the dots resemble an upside-down v-shape.

  4. After a few seconds of focusing on the furthest dot as one image, try looking at the next dot.

  5. Repeat down the line of dots while trying to keep the dot you are focusing on as one image. You should now see an X shape.

  6. If you cannot see the dot as a single image, go back up the line to the next dot and try again.

  7. Don't worry if you can't get it right away; this exercise might take practice.

Stereograms


You may have seen stereograms as a visual illusion in a magic eye picture book. Simple stereograms are useful for visual therapy exercises. For this exercise, you will need simple stereogram cards.

  1. Hold the stereogram card at arm's length in front of your eyes.

  2. In your other hand, hold a pen halfway between your face and the card.

  3. Focus on the top of the pen, keeping it as a single image.

  4. While continuing to look at the pen, begin to move it slowly towards you. Do not look at the stereogram card behind the pen. The two images on the card will appear as doubled, showing four.

  5. While you slowly move the pen towards your face, you should now see three images instead of four. The middle image will look complete

  6. When the middle image is complete, try to focus on it and make it as clear as you can.

  7. Once you progress, you can try completing this exercise without a pen.

  8. Be especially sure to relax your eyes for a few minutes after this exercise.

Video Games That Correct Lazy Eye

Some video games may help improve amblyopia. While research is ongoing, here are some promising examples:

Tetris

One small study had adults with amblyopia play Tetris while wearing video goggles for one hour a day over two weeks. Half of the participants played the game with one eye patched. 

The rest played the game with both eyes dichoptically, meaning different visual elements were shown to each eye simultaneously, such as ones with higher or lower color contrast.

The two-eye dichoptic training results showed significant learning advancements over the one-eyed training, although both groups showed improvement. This study shows that not only is Tetris a fun way to perform visual therapy and that it is best to do this using both eyes.

Virtual Reality

More recent research has shown virtual reality may be a fun and effective option for improving communication between the eyes and the brain.

Virtual reality has been used with games that combine perceptual learning and dichoptic stimulation. So far, the research is promising, showing improvements in vision sharpness, seeing color contrast, and depth perception.

A Word From Verywell

Some exercises are only useful for specific types of amblyopia. Go with your doctor’s advice for your particular condition to ensure you do not cause problems and that you are doing exercises that are effective for lazy eye.

While lazy eye might be alarming to see, with early detection and the proper plan, it is treatable. Concerns about you or your child’s vision can be discussed with your healthcare provider.

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