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People With Visible Eye Deformities Face Prejudice

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Coats conducted a study similar to Olitsky's, in which altered photos were attached to equally qualified resumes for jobs. They found a woman with strabismus had a much lower likelihood of getting the job in question than a woman with straight eye alignment.

Coats has witnessed the psychosocial effects of strabismus surgery. He says that he has frequently encountered patients who, within weeks of surgery, report getting a new job, a promotion, or new boyfriend or girlfriend.

"This is a good article that takes a different approach" to previous studies, says John L. Keltner, MD, chairman of the department of ophthalmology at the University of California, Davis. "It makes one more important contribution to helping us understand the importance of this very overlooked part of ophthalmology. Having crossed eyes, more than eyes that drift out, has tremendous implications. ? I think this is underappreciated by insurance companies."

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.

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