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What is amblyopia?

Amblyopia is simply poor vision in an eye that did not develop normally during early childhood. It is also defined as a loss of vision without any apparent disease of the eye. Amblyopia usually only affects one eye and occurs in about 2-3% of the population.

In order to better understand amblyopia, it is important to know how normal vision develops. During the first months of a newborn baby's life, their vision improves each day. This continues through early childhood. If there is a problem with one of the eyes and the child cannot use their eyes normally, then vision will not develop properly. It is very important that amblyopia be detected and treated as early as possible.

What causes amblyopia?

Amblyopia can be caused for three major reasons: Strabismus (misaligned eyes), unequal focus (refractive error) or a cataract (cloudiness in the eye's lens).

How is amblyopia corrected?

In order for the amblyopia to be cured, the weaker eye must be made stronger - you cannot cure amblyopia by treating the cause alone. If strabismus (misaligned eyes) is the cause, then often the treatment entails patching or covering the good eye. This forces the child to use the weaker eye. The patch is worn for weeks or months and then in order to maintain improvement, the patch should continue to be worn on occasion. If the amblyopia is caused by unequal focus then glasses may be prescribed. If glasses alone do not improve the vision, then patching may also be necessary in this case as well. Finally, if a cataract or other abnormality is the cause of ambylopia, then surgery will be required. After surgery, glasses are often used to correct any refractive error.

Patients should consult with an ophthalmologist who can provide the appropriate level of care necessary. If you wish to inquire about pediatric ophthalmic services and orthoptics, please call (212) 979-4375 for a medical referral or to receive additional information.

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