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Amblyopia - Topic Overview

How is amblyopia diagnosed?

Your child's doctor will do an eye exam. If the exam shows that your child has poor vision in one eye, the doctor may diagnose amblyopia after ruling out other causes.

To help make the diagnosis, the doctor will ask about symptoms, any family members who have had vision problems, other possible risk factors such as low birth weight, and whether your child has trouble reading, seeing the board in school, or watching TV.

Experts suggest that children have an eye checkup between the ages of 3 and 5, and earlier in some cases.1 If you worry about your child's eyes or vision, take him or her to an eye doctor sooner. No child is too young for an eye exam.

How is it treated?

For amblyopia to be treated, your child must use the weak eye. This will force the eye to get stronger. Over time this corrects the vision in the weak eye.

Your doctor may suggest:

  • Blocking the strong eye with an eye patch.
  • Blurring the strong eye with eyedrops or glasses.

Your child may have to wear the patch or glasses most of the day or for just part of each day. Treatment may last for a few weeks or months. Severe cases may take longer.

If another problem is causing the amblyopia, such as a cataract, it also needs to be treated.

Treatment is best started before age 6 and should begin before your child's vision has fully developed, around age 9 or 10. Later treatment will most likely be less helpful but may still improve vision in some cases. A child with amblyopia who does not get treatment may have poor vision for life.

After treatment ends, be sure to set up follow-up eye exams for your child. Amblyopia can return even after successful treatment.

How can you help your child cope with treatment?

Treatment sounds simple, but using an eye patch or glasses may bother your child. To help your child:

  • Explain that the glasses or patch will help his or her vision get better.
  • Tell your child's friends, teachers, coaches, and others about the eye problem and what you and your child have to do for it. Ask for their help.
  • Use the patch, glasses, or eyedrops as your doctor says.
  • If possible, decorate the patch with your child. First, ask your doctor if it's okay.
  • Do fun things, such as coloring and crafts, when your child is wearing the patch or glasses. This will help your child use the weak eye.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 08, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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