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People With Visible Eye Deformities Face Prejudice

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Keltner says that his first goal in treating patients with strabismus is to obtain equal vision in both eyes, and the second goal, if possible, is to get the eyes to work together to give perception of depth. "Often we can't completely achieve either one of those goals, but the one thing we can do realistically is to get the patients to look like the rest of the world," he says. "That's tremendous."

Keltner says his own work is motivated in part by his memories of the psychosocial abuse he encountered in kindergarten as a child with amblyopia, a condition that causes dimness of vision.

The study is an important addition to a growing body of evidence showing that misaligned eyes have a negative social and occupational influence, according to Rosenbaum, who is chief of the division of pediatric ophthalmology at the Doris Stein Eye Research Center at UCLA.

"We now have a lot of evidence to support the idea that this surgery is required to rehabilitate a disability, not to enhance beauty," he tells WebMD. He says it should be considered in the same category as someone who needs a skin graft or correction of a facial birthmark.

And he says that successful surgery for some patients can still yield visual improvements. "These patients can actually visually benefit from this surgery late in life ? both in terms of quality of vision and the size of the visual field," Rosenbaum says.

Physicians should view patients with strabismus as having a disability that requires compassion, Rosenbaum says. Early surgical correction will minimize the length of time they will have to deal with the negative effects of the disability.

Vital Information:

  • New research studies show that people with strabismus, or misaligned eyes, are judged more negatively in society and that the condition affects their quality of life.
  • Corrective surgery for strabismus is often categorized as cosmetic, not reconstructive, and many insurance companies won't pay for it.
  • Some experts argue that the surgery is not cosmetic, because it doesn't enhance beauty but only makes a person appear normal.
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