A lazy eye – where faulty wiring between the eye and the brain can impact the vision in one eye – is one of the most common eye conditions that affect young children.
According to NICE, between 2% and 3% of children in the UK suffer from lazy eyes (also called amblyopia), although some adults also suffer the condition.
The first step in seeing whether your or your child’s lazy eye can be treated is to speak to an optometrist or ophthalmologist. The sooner the diagnosis, the better the chances of success.
To help you on your journey, this article explains everything you need to understand about the different treatment options available for lazy eyes, and the costs involved in treatment.
In this article, you will learn:
- How Much Does Lazy Eye Surgery Cost?
- Lazy Eye Treatment
- Can I Get Lazy Eye Treatment On The NHS?
- What Is a Lazy Eye?
- Lazy Eye Symptoms
- Can Laser Eye Surgery Treat a Lazy Eye?
- How Much Will Lazy Eye Surgery Cost Me?
1. How Much Does Lazy Eye Surgery Cost?
The cost of lazy eye surgery (amblyopia) in the UK ranges between £1,650 and £1,995 for cataract surgery or squint surgery. The prices vary depending on what type of procedure you or your child has, the technology used, and the experience of the surgeon.
Surgical treatments tend to cost considerably more than non-surgical procedures, but are often the first step in correcting or preventing lazy eyes. This cost comparison table breaks down the different prices for lazy eye treatment for you:
|Type Of Treatment||Price|
|Prescription Glasses||From £69|
|Cataract Surgery||From £1,995|
|Squint Surgery||From £1,650|
|Eye Patch||From £5|
|Eye Drops||From £10|
You will also have the option of paying for lazy eye surgery on finance at most high street clinics such as Optical Express, Optegra and Ultralase. With an initial deposit of around £500 and monthly payments of, for example, £50 over two years, you can spread the cost of your treatment on a plan you are comfortable with.
Want a more accurate quote? Get a tailored quote from a top-rated eye clinic near you by answering three questions on our simple price-finder tool here.
2. Lazy Eye Treatment
Eye specialists can successfully treat a lazy eye in childhood, if it’s diagnosed early enough. There are two stages to correcting amblyopia: first, it’s important to treat the underlying cause of the lazy eye, before encouraging the vision to develop properly.
Treatment can take several months before it is effective, and your ophthalmologist will advise you on which type of vision correction is most appropriate for your child.
Stage One: Treat the Underlying Eye Problem
Firstly, if a lazy eye is caused by another underlying eye problem, the natural solution is to treat the issue. These are the main treatment options recommended by the NHS:
- Prescription glasses: these can be used to treat both myopia (near-sightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness). Your child’s glasses will need to be checked frequently to ensure that they are right for their eyes, and must be worn constantly in order to be effective. Glasses can also assist with straightening a squint, and in some cases can correct a lazy eye without the need for further treatment. Contact lenses can also be used in older children as an alternative to glasses.
- Cataract surgery: removal of cataracts from the lazy eye enables your child’s vision to develop normally. Cataract surgery is carried out under general anaesthetic, and takes up to two hours to complete. To find out more about this treatment, read our guide to cataract surgery.
- Squint surgery: the muscles around the lazy eye are either strengthened or weakened to change the eye’s location within the socket. This will not correct your child’s vision, but will simply help to align the lazy eye with the normal eye so that the two eyes can begin working together better.
Stage Two: Encourage the Use Of the Lazy Eye
The second step is to encourage the child to start using their lazy eye. Luckily, there are a number of treatment options to help with this:
- Eye drops: specialist atropine eye drops can be administered to your child’s good eye to dilate its pupil and blur its near vision, to encourage the lazy eye to function properly. The effects of the atropine eye drops are not permanent, and the vision in your child’s good eye will return to normal once the drops are no longer used.
- Eye patches: a patch with a sticky rim is placed over the good eye to force the lazy eye to work.
3. Can I Get Lazy Eye Treatment On The NHS?
Yes, lazy eye treatment is available for some people on the NHS, meaning you do not need to pay for it. Since the condition can lead to severe visual impairment (and even blindness) if left untreated, the NHS can justify spending resources on treating lazy eyes.
The waiting time for surgery on the NHS, however, can be long. Non-urgent, consultant-led treatment – such as lazy eye surgery – should take no longer than 18 weeks. But a recent Telegraph study found patients going 15 months before receiving cataract surgery.
If you would prefer not to wait that long, private eye clinics will generally be able to offer treatment within a much more palatable four weeks. Of course, private surgery is not available for free on the NHS.
4. What Is a Lazy Eye?
A lazy eye is a misalignment of one of the eyes. In technical jargon, it’s also called amblyopia, and can cause permanent damage to a child’s vision if left untreated.
Lazy eyes start in childhood. The condition occurs from faulty wiring between one of the eyes and the brain, and the child learns to depend on the “good” eye and ignore the image produced by the lazy eye. With one eye out of use, the vision does not develop properly in this eye.
That’s why it’s extremely rare to develop amblyopia in both eyes, although there have been some cases. When the eyes both rest in different directions (usually inwards or outwards), it’s known as a squint – or strabismus.
What Causes a Lazy Eye?
For us to see, light needs to pass through our eye to the tissue behind it called the retina. There nerve signals carry the message to the brain, where it’s processed as an image. But sometimes the message never gets through, stopping the brain from building a connection with one of the eyes.
There can be three main factors that cause a lazy eye:
- A blockage that limits the light entering the eye (such as a cloudy lens or cataract)
- An issue in focusing the eye (like a refractive error)
- A misalignment between the eyes (such as a squint)
An ophthalmologist will be able to diagnose any of the above, and the earlier the treatment begins, the easier it is to correct the lazy eye condition.
5. Lazy Eye Symptoms
Unfortunately, it can be tough to spot a lazy eye in children. That’s because it usually does not cause any symptoms, although you may notice that one of your child’s eyes looks different from the other.
Young children often don’t realise that there is something wrong with their vision. But older children are more likely to complain if they cannot see clearly out of one eye and start to struggle with reading or writing.
Although lazy eyes can go unnoticed in young children, there are a few symptoms of other eye conditions that you can watch out for, as they could lead to the development of a lazy eye. These conditions include:
- Childhood cataracts: this occurs when cloudy patches develop on the lens of the eye, causing blurred or misty vision.
- Refractive errors: this refers to when an individual is myopic (near-sighted) or hyperopic (farsighted). People with myopia struggle to see objects in the far distance clearly, while those with hyperopia find it difficult to see objects close to them clearly.
- A squint: this occurs when the affected eye looks upwards, downwards, inwards or outwards, while the ‘normal’ eye looks straight ahead.
How Do You Diagnose a Lazy Eye?
To help diagnose a lazy eye, it’s important for your child to undergo regular eye examinations. The NHS recommends routine eye tests for three-year-olds, and then once every two years whilst children are in education.
Since it becomes harder to treat a lazy eye after the age of four, it’s essential to ensure your child is tested before then.
If you have any concerns about your child’s eyesight, visit your GP as the first point of call. He or she will be able to refer them to an eye specialist if necessary for further examinations.
6. Can Lazy Eyes Be Fixed in Adults?
Although research into the treatment of amblyopia in adults is ongoing, it is increasingly difficult to treat a lazy eye in anyone over the age of eight. That said, it is possible to prevent the onset of lazy eyes in adults if patients act quickly.
This is because the visual disturbance in the lazy eye occurs at a neurological level. Once the neural pathways that allow you to see are fully developed between your eyes and brain, they cannot be altered.
An untreated lazy eye in childhood can therefore persist into adulthood, at which point no amount of treatment will be effective at restoring normal vision. This is why it is so important to seek medical attention for amblyopia in young childhood, when the chances of success are highest.
To avoid people getting to this stage, the NHS recommends testing children’s vision when they reach four years old. That leaves enough time for any eye conditions to develop, and it’s still early enough to treat them.
7. Can Laser Eye Surgery Treat a Lazy Eye?
Whilst laser eye surgery cannot outright cure a lazy eye, it can successfully prevent its development in adulthood. Those who have one eye which is more myopic (near-sighted) or hyperopic (far-sighted) than the other may be at risk of developing a lazy eye in later life, as the brain begins to ignore the image produced by the eye with greater refractive error.
Although prescription glasses can correct this, they do not provide a long-term solution. Glasses can also be uncomfortable to wear, since the unequal magnification between the lenses can lead to headaches and nausea.
In these circumstances, laser eye surgery may be the best treatment for correcting refractive errors in adulthood to prevent a lazy eye from forming, as well as freeing you from glasses or lenses.
8. How Much Will Lazy Eye Surgery Cost Me?
To find out whether laser eye surgery could help correct your vision, you’ll want to talk to a qualified ophthalmologist, and receive the recommended eye tests.
To get started on this journey, and find a top-rated laser eye surgery clinic near you, use our simple quote tool here to receive a personalised quote for lazy eye surgery.