Strabismus (Crossed Eyes) and Amblyopia (Lazy Eyes)

Approximately 2% of American children have amblyopia and 3-5% have strabismus.

Strabismus (Crossed Eyes) and Amblyopia (Lazy Eyes) in Olympia

Amblyopia and strabismus are at times connected, but they are not the same condition.

American Family Vision Clinic

What is strabismus?

Strabismus is the medical term for crossed eyes which occurs when the eyes are not aligned. One or both of the eyes could be turned inwards, outwards, upwards or downwards and both eyes are not focused on the same target. It is common for this to occur when a person is very farsighted or has poor eye muscle control. The wandering eye may be a constant phenomenon or it manifests when the person is tired, ill or has done a lot of viewing up close such as reading. If left untreated, strabismus could get worse.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history
  • Refractive error - if someone is very farsighted and has not received the proper prescription for an optical correction, such as glasses
  • Various health conditions such as down syndrome, cerebral palsy or after a stroke or head injury

What are some signs of strabismus?

  • Wandering eyes
  • Eyes do not move in sync
  • Tilted head
  • Poor depth perception
  • Frequent blinking or squinting
  • Double vision

It is important to keep in mind that while strabismus may be noticeable in large angle strabismus, it could also easily be missed if it's intermittent, alternating or a small angle strabismus.


How is strabismus treated?

There are different treatment options, depending on the cause and diagnosis. Sometimes one or more methods are used for the same patient: 

  • Glasses or contact lenses - at times this is the only necessary treatment
  • Prisms - special types of lenses which bend the light in a unique way
  • Vision therapy - various exercises can be used to train the eyes to focus and coordinate properly with each other and with the brain

Often these methods of treatment will suffice, but there are cases where eye muscle surgery will be recommended. It is advisable to first try the non-invasive treatment techniques above before deciding if to operate.

What is amblyopia?

What is amblyopia?

Lazy eye, known medically as amblyopia, is the main cause of loss of vision in children in one eye. Amblyopia is a condition that occurs when the eyes are not working together properly as a team along with the brain. Each eye receives its own image which is not coordinated with the other. So in order to cope, the brain shuts off communication with one eye, nicknamed the ‘lazy eye’ by suppressing it. Clear vision is achieved by the other, stronger eye as the lazy eye cannot achieve 20/20 vision, even with an optical correction. 

Risk Factors

Some children are more prone to developing a lazy eye. The risk factors include:

  • Family history
  • Premature birth or an infant who is born with a low weight
  • Developmental delay
What is amblyopia?

How is amblyopia treated?

Scientific studies have proven that eye patching alone is no longer the recommended method of treating a lazy eye.

The following methods of treatment are generally offered, sometimes just one method will suffice, while other cases require a combination of various treatment methods:

  • Glasses or contact lenses - sometimes this is the only method required
  • Vision therapy - various exercises are used to train the eyes to work properly together and to communicate with the brain; studies show that treating with vision therapy could reduce the need for patching the stronger eye
  • Closing one eye - it’s now been proven that patching the stronger eye for a shorter amount of time while the patient is performing cognitive activities using the lazy eye yields similar results than if the eye is occluded for long periods of time
Dr. Zurcher cartoon


Amblyopia and strabismus are at times connected, but they are not the same condition. Patients with functional vision issues such as amblyopia visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of functional vision services for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey. To schedule a functional vision exam, please call (360) 491-2121.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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