Amblyopia ("lazy eye) refers to a condition in which visual acuity is lost by a child in a peculiar and perplexing way. The condition starts because there is decreased visual acuity in one eye or confusing double images caused by crossed eyes. The visual cortex (the area of the brain that processes vision) progressively "tunes out" the input from the weaker eye. Eventually, all vision in that eye may be lost.

The first 2 or 3 years of life are the time when amblyopia most often occurs, although problems have been reported in children as old as 9. The first few months of life are the most critical period, and for this reason parents who suspect any abnormality of their baby's eyes - eyes crossing or drifting out, hazy, white or unclear pupils - should immediately consult the baby's doctor about examination and possible referral to an eye specialist (a pediatric ophthalmologist would be my first choice; a general ophthalmologist or optometrist who is comfortable in dealing with small children if you do not have a subspecialist in your area). Do not accept "Oh, it's probably something he'll just grow out of..." If not treated by about age five, the vision loss of amblyopia becomes essentially irreversible.

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