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Amblyopia - Topic Overview

What are the symptoms?

In most cases, amblyopia does not cause symptoms. But your child may:

  • Have an eye that wanders or does not move with the other eye.
  • Have eyes that do not move in the same direction or fix on the same point.
  • Cry or complain when one eye is covered.
  • Squint or tilt the head to look at something.
  • Have an upper eyelid that droops.

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.

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