Amblyopia — decreased vision in one or both eyes resulting from abnormal visual input to the eye — in children can best be treated with spectacles, said Monte Del Monte, director of paediatric ophthalmology, Mott Children’s Hospital, Michigan.

Professor Monte was in the city to deliver the 11th Mrs. Nagamani Dharmapuri Endowment Lecture organised by Sankara Nethralaya and Madras City Ophthalmological Association on ‘Updates on Amblyopia Diagnosis and Treatment for the 21st Century’ on Tuesday.

“Spectacles alone are a powerful treatment for amblyopia. Sometimes, patching of the good eye is not necessary, and if it is, full-time patching is not. Atropine often works as well as patching and may be better tolerated,” he said.

He said the delayed diagnosis of amblyopia was a concern, and the best prognosis required early diagnosis and treatment before the child was three or four years old.

“In the United States, there are 19 million children under the age of five. Three per cent (6,00,000) of them have amblyopia, the largest cause of childhood vision loss,” Prof. Monte said. He added that several cases continued to be undetected until the age of five.

Addressing the gathering, health secretary J. Radhakrishnan, said there were eight million visually impaired persons in the country. One of the challenges in ophthalmic care was that nearly 80 per cent of ophthalmologists were based in cities.

“Ophthalmology is one of the fields in medicine that has made rapid advances but we still have cases of congenital cataract, squint, glaucoma and refractive errors,” he said.

He called for coordination between the government, the private sector and leading NGOs to create awareness about eye diseases and early detection. S.S. Badrinath, chairman emeritus of Sankara Nethralaya and T.S. Surendran, vice chairman of the hospital, as well as several others participated.

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