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Amblyopia and Your Child's Eyes

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How Is Amblyopia Diagnosed?

All children should be screened before they are school-age. Your child's doctor or the vision program at school will check three aspects of your child's eye health:

  1. Your child's eyes let light all the way through.
  2. Both eyes see equally well.
  3. The eyes move normally.

If there's a problem in any area, the doctor or school nurse may recommend a visit to an eye specialist. If you feel that something could be wrong with your child's vision, call your doctor even if your child has been screened at school.

Some eye care experts recommend an exam by an eye doctor at 6 months, 3 years, and then every two years in the school years. Ask your doctor or eye doctor which is right for your child.

Family history of amblyopia is a risk factor for the condition. Parents cannot tell just by looking at their child if they have amblyopia. Early diagnosis and treatment are the keys to the best visual outcome.

How Is Amblyopia Treated?

The most common treatment for amblyopia is to force the brain to start using the "bad" eye. This is done by first correcting any underlying problems in that eye and then by putting a patch over the "good" eye. At first, the child will have a hard time seeing with just the weaker eye. However, it is very important that your child wear the patch diligently because this will eventually improve vision. It can take weeks or months for an eye patch to improve vision. Follow your doctor's instructions carefully and follow the schedule to bring your child to the eye doctor to be monitored closely during treatment. 

As the child keeps using only the eye with amblyopia, his or her vision will continue to improve. After the doctor determines that vision is back to normal, your child will not have to wear the patch. Some children may again lose some vision and need to undergo another round of wearing a patch. In cases of mild amblyopia, the doctor might recommend using an eye drop called atropine in the "good" eye instead of a patch. Atropine dilates the pupil and blurs the vision in the "good” eye, forcing the "bad" eye to do most of the work while the child is playing with toys, eating, drawing, or reading.

Most children with amblyopia will also need glasses to help focus. If there is something such as a cataract blocking light from getting into the eye, the doctor may recommend surgery to remove the blockage. If strabismus is preventing the eyes from moving together correctly, your doctor might recommend surgery on the muscles of the eye. Your doctor will discuss with you what treatment is most appropriate for your child.

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