The Treatment of Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) by Atropine

Patient Experience

  • Reference Number: HEY-283/2021
  • Departments: Ophthalmology Department
  • Last Updated: 15 October 2021


This leaflet has been produced to give you general information about your child’s treatment.  Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet.  It is not meant to replace the discussion between you and your child’s orthoptist, but may act as a starting point for discussion.  If after reading it you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team.

What is a amblyopia or “lazy eye” ?

A lazy eye is an eye with poor vision.  The eye itself is healthy, but something has happened to cause the vision to stop developing properly, or even to deteriorate.

What is atropine?

Atropine is an eye drop which will make the pupil very large and will stop the eye from focusing, reducing the vision of the eye.

Why does my child need atropine?

The aim of atropine treatment is to improve the vision of the lazy eye to a reasonable level by blurring the vision of the good eye.

Your child may also be issued with new glasses to further reduce the vision of the good eye. These will be coated with a transparent UV filter, which will make your child more comfortable in bright light, whilst the pupil is enlarged. This coating is a standard on all glasses prescribed.

The effects of the atropine and the new glasses (if prescribed) should hopefully give your child’s lazy eye an advantage over the other eye and therefore encourage them to use the lazy eye.

Can there be any complications or risks?

Atropine is poisonous if taken by mouth and therefore it is very important that you store the atropine safely and securely.

Atropine can sometimes cause adverse reactions.  Your child should stop using atropine straightaway and seek medical advice if any of the following occur:

  • Irritable red eye
  • Flushed, dry skin or a skin rash
  • Urinary problems
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Mental confusion
  • Nausea, vomiting and dizziness
  • Abnormal heartbeat

What will happen?

 You will be asked to start using the atropine drops and be given instructions. You will be told which eye the drop needs to go in and how often. In some cases new glasses may be prescribed, if this is the case you may be asked not to start the drops until your child has their new glasses. One drop of atropine should be used as prescribed (either twice a week or on alternate days) in the eye specified by the orthoptist.

 Once your child’s vision has reached the expected level, they may still need conventional patching treatment to help maintain the improved level of vision after the atropine treatment has been stopped.

How can I help my child with the treatment?

When using the atropine drops, your child will need lots of help and encouragement as they are not used to coping with poor vision.  Getting over the initial difficulty is of great importance if the treatment is to be effective.

Your child should be encouraged to make the lazy eye work hard.  “Hard work” for eyes includes colouring, using building blocks, reading story books, computer games – in fact anything detailed a child wants to see.

How often do I need to attend with my child?

Whilst your child is using atropine it is vital that they are seen regularly in the Orthoptic Clinic.  You will need to attend every 2 to 4 weeks.

The orthoptist will decide how soon the child should attend the clinic again for the vision to be checked.  It is important that you do not miss your appointment as atropine drops can only be used for 28 days, from when the bottle was opened.  If you find you are unable to attend, please let us know on the number below.  If you fail to attend any appointments then this treatment will be discontinued.

Should you require further advice on the issues contained in this leaflet, please do not hesitate to contact the orthoptic department (01482) 816605

General Advice and Consent

Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.

Consent to treatment

Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats your child, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to your child. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.

The information you receive should be about your child’s condition, the alternatives available for your child, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:

  • you must be able to give your consent
  • you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
  • you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person

Information about your child

We collect and use your child’s information to provide your child with care and treatment. As part of your child’s care, information about your child will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your child’s information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.

We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide your child with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your child’s doctor, or the person caring for your child.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about your child. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

If you need information about your child’s (or a child you care for) health and wellbeing and their care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.

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