Amblyopia is an uncorrectable decrease in vision in one or both eyes with no apparent structural abnormality seen to explain it. It is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that when a decrease in vision is detected, other causes must be ruled out. Once no other cause is found, amblyopia is the diagnosis. Generally, a difference of two lines or more (on an eye-chart test of visual acuity) between the two eyes or a best corrected vision of 20/30 or worse would be defined as amblyopia. For example, if someone has 20/20 vision with the right eye and only 20/40 with the left, and the left eye cannot achieve better vision with corrective lenses, the left eye is said to be amblyopic.
Lazy eye is a common non-medical term used to describe amblyopia because the eye with poorer vision doesn't seem to be doing its job of seeing. Amblyopia is the most common cause of impaired vision in children, affecting nearly three out of every 100 people or 2-4% of the population. Vision is a combination of the clarity of the images of the eyes (visual acuity) and the processing of those images by the brain. If the images produced by the two eyes are substantially different, the brain may not be able to fuse the images. Instead of seeing two different images or double vision (diplopia), the brain suppresses the blurrier image. This suppression can lead to amblyopia. During the first few years of life, preferring one eye over the other may lead to poor visual development in the blurrier eye.
Lorraine Steefel RN, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,