LASIK is a popular surgical treatment for common eye problems, helping patients go from blurry vision to (near) perfect eyesight again. Does LASIK fix lazy eyes?

LASIK has been around for decades and is used to correct refractive errors of the eye. These errors, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, are caused by an irregular shape of the eyeball and cornea. Eyeballs should be round, but for many people they are longer or wider. LASIK surgery uses a laser to remove tissue from the eyeball to correct its shape. 

A lazy eye, also called amblyopia, is poor vision in one eye due to a developmental error, often in childhood. One eye begins to receive fewer signals from the brain, so the other eye takes over perpetuating the cycle of the brain favoring one eye over the other. The dominant eye continues to receive more signals from the brain, which causes the brain to stop sending signals to the lazy eye. Lazy eyes are also caused by muscle imbalances, causing one eye to turn or wander when it can no longer keep up in working together with the other eye. 

Because lazy eyes are due to muscle imbalances or the communication between the brain and the eye, LASIK will not fix lazy eyes. LASIK was created to correct physical abnormalities in the cornea and lens that interfere with vision. LASIK surgery can alter the shape of the cornea and lens so that light refracts correctly again, reducing a person’s nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism. LASIK surgery cannot repair the damaged or dormant nerve pathways between the eye and the brain. LASIK also can’t correct muscle fatigue or imbalances. 

There is one exception to this rule: lazy eyes that are caused by one eye working harder than the other because of a refractive error. While many lazy eyes develop during childhood, for some people, a lazy eye develops later in life when nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism only occur in one eye. When this refractive error is especially extreme, the brain may start to favor the eye with better vision. Over time, the brain choosing to ignore or rely less on the other eye leads to amblyopia. In this case, LASIK to correct the refractive error in one eye may jumpstart the brain to start using both eyes in tandem again. 

While LASIK is not (usually) a treatment for lazy eyes, there are many tried and true treatment options available. Eye drops, contacts and glasses with or without a filter can all help correct a lazy eye. Perhaps the most well-known and cost-effective treatment is an eye patch worn over the dominant eye. This forces the brain to start working with the lazy eye again and is especially effective in a short amount of time. 

If you or a loved one are having symptoms of a lazy eye including squinting, poor depth perception or eyes that don’t move together, it’s time to make an appointment with your eye doctor. While LASIK is not an option for most, your eye doctor can create a successful treatment plan for you.

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