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Lazy Eyes or Lazy Brain?

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“Lazy Eye” is an often misunderstood condition. The term itself leads to the idea that there is something wrong with the actual eyeball. People think “It can’t see well or it can’t move with the other eye, it must be lazy then!”. However, eye muscles are 60x stronger than necessary. Unless there is another condition causing a nerve problem or trauma that caused muscle damage, it is often a problem with the brains ability to control the eye or eyes. A significant proportion of those who have a “lazy eye” have NOTHING wrong with the eye itself. We often think that vision happens in our eyes, but both seeing and controlling the eyes happens in the BRAIN.

Each eye independently has its own:

  • muscles to move the eye
  • nerves to control the muscles that move the eye
  • nerves that transmit information from the eye to the brain
  • cells in the brain for seeing images

The occipital lobe (located at the back of the brain) is where the ability to see with both eyes simultaneously occurs, but every part of the brain is involved in making the 2 eyes work together. The brain has a challenging job- it is like taking 2 independent tennis players and making them into a doubles team. Each person has their own style and abilities, but in order for them to be successful they must both work equally and coordinate their movements in order to win a match. They may be able to make adjustments on their own, but for the 2 players to become a successful team, they need a coach guiding and directing their movements. This is what must happen in order for the 2 eyes to work together- they need their coach (the brain) to give the proper plays and strategies (signals to the nerves in the eyes) to be a team.

So in all actuality it’s not the eye being lazy, it’s the BRAIN being “lazy” or rather having difficulty sending the correct signals to the eyes and eye muscles. An eye turn (strabismus) or eye that doesn’t see well (amblyopia), is a problem of the brain not functioning properly. Now that we understand it is the brain not functioning efficiently, stay tuned for our upcoming blogs to learn a little more at these conditions!

Resources for further information:
“Fixing My Gaze” by Susan Barry
“Crossed and Lazy Eyes” by Pilar Vergara Gimenez
“Jillian’s Story: How Vision Therapy Changed My Daughter’s Life” by Robin Benoit with Jillian Benoit

Written by Dr. Holly Ternus

Dr. Holly Ternus is originally from Torrington, Wyoming, and graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in biological sciences. She graduated with Honors from The New England College of Optometry and completed internships with Honors at South Boston Community Health Center with an emphasis in glaucoma and narrow-angle glaucoma, Togus Veterans Affairs Medical Center with an emphasis in ocular disease, Lifetime Eyecare in Houston fitting specialty contact lenses, and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

Dr. Ternus practiced with ophthalmology in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, specializing in ocular disease, dry eye disease, and emergency care. She then transitioned into primary care, fitting specialty contacts for keratoconus, post-RK, corneal ectasia, and irregular corneas.

Dr. Ternus is an active member of the Nebraska Optometric Association, American Optometry Association, and American Academy of Optometry. She received her fellowship with the American Academy of Optometry in 2018 and is a graduate of the Nebraska Optometric Association’s Leadership Institute. She also received her fellowship in the Scleral Lens Education Society and is the first in Nebraska to have completed this honor.

Outside of work, Dr. Ternus enjoys spending time with her husband and 2 children, snowboarding, skiing, water sports, watching Husker football, and everything that involves being outdoors.

More Articles By Dr. Holly Ternus

Vision Therapy

Vision therapy is an effective, non-surgical, doctor-supervised treatment that retrains the brain and eyes to work together more efficiently. Rather than compensate for vision problems, vision therapy aims to treat and correct the visual system itself.

Discover how we can help you or your child overcome vision problems such as strabismus and amblyopia, and build a greater sense of confidence. Take our vision therapy quiz today!

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