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Amblyopia

Indian familyGood eyesight will help your child succeed in school and in life. All children should have annual vision screenings at the pediatrician’s office or in school. No child is too young for a full eye examination if something seems to be the matter. Most insurance plans, including Medicaid, cover the cost of complete vision examination and at least one pair of glasses.


What is amblyopia?
Amblyopia (am-blee-oh-pee-ah) is poor vision in an eye that did not develop sight normally in early childhood. If untreated when the child is very young, amblyopia can lead to permanently reduced sight in one or both eyes. Four out of every 100 adults have permanently reduced vision because their amblyopia wasn’t treated when they were young children.

What Causes amblyopia?
There are three major causes:
  1. Unequal focus. When one eye sees better than the other eye, the brain uses the better eye and shuts down the weaker one.


  2. Misaligned eyes (“strabismus”). When a child’s eyes do not line up properly, the brain shuts down one eye to avoid double vision.


  3. Cataracts and other physical problems. Amblyopia caused by cataracts (cloudiness of the lens inside the eye) or a droopy eyelid is less common than the other types but must be treated as soon as it is found.

Can Amblyopia be treated?
Yes! Treatment can improve vision and prevent blindness for most children—but only if the problem is found early enough. The sooner the treatment, the better the chance a child will get vision back in the amblyopic eye. By age 8 or 9 years, a child’s visual development is nearly complete, and it may be too late to treat amblyopia successfully.

The NYC Department of Education provides
vision screening for children enrolled in school.

Can you tell if your child has amblyopia?
Unless a child has a crossed eye or droopy lid, parents can’t usually tell whether something is wrong. To find amblyopia, children should have their vision tested at their annual visit to the pediatrician and when vision tests are given in school. The pediatrician or other vision screener should: Test vision in each eye separately using a chart containing rows of letters or simple pictures. One eye is covered while the other eye is tested. If a problem is found, the child should be referred immediately to a pediatric eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist).

Find out about free and low-cost
health insurance options
for your family.

How is ambyopia treated?
  1. The cause of the amblyopia is addressed. Glasses are commonly prescribed to improve focusing or alignment of the eyes. Surgery may be needed if there is a cataract or some other physical problem with the eye.


  2. The amblyopic eye is strengthened. Patching or covering one eye is often required. The better-seeing eye is patched for a few hours, forcing the amblyopic eye to work. Medication (eye drops or ointment) may be used to blur the vision of the stronger eye to force the amblyopic one to work.

How long does treatment last?
Treatment may be required for a few weeks to as long as a year. After treatment, children need check-ups until the age of 9 or 10 to make sure that the amblyopia is gone.

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Last Updated: March 30, 2012