Ask an expert: Understanding amblyopia

Dr. Allison Summers care for children with amblyopia and other eye diseases at OHSU Casey Eye Institute.
Dr. Allison Summers cares for children with amblyopia and other eye conditions.

What is the most important thing parents should know about amblyopia?

It’s treatable! Amblyopia is the most common cause of childhood vision loss in one eye, and treatment can make a big difference in vision for a lifetime. Treatment may include glasses, eye patches, eye drops or other straightforward methods.

What is a common challenge kids and their parents face and what would you recommend as a solution?

"I see fine without my glasses!” Hearing this understandably makes parents wonder what to do. Many children have amblyopia in one eye, yet the other eye sees fine without glasses. However, your child may need glasses to improve vision in the eye with amblyopia, to keep the eyes working as a team, and to improve depth perception.

All of these help with learning, sports, and avoiding accidents. Talk to your doctor if you aren’t sure if the glasses are working correctly. Your doctor may recommend a change in prescription, a different frame, eye drops at home or something else that can help your child.

Where and when do we screen for amblyopia, and why so early?

Many people don’t realize that the reason we do vision screenings is to catch amblyopia. With automated screening devices or other methods, your pediatric clinic or school can catch the risk factors for amblyopia in a few minutes at ages 1-6 years when treatment is easiest and most effective. Screenings start at birth and continue every year throughout childhood, and are particularly helpful in catching kids that only see well with one eye. Ideally, amblyopia will be detected and treated before parents notice any problem or school performance is affected.