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Early check for lazy eye stressed

By ELIZABETH CIEPIELA

Staff writer

The state House of Representatives approved a resolution Feb. 16 recommending parents have their children screened for amblyopia — commonly referred to as lazy eye — and other vision abnormalities before the children enter school.

Resolution 4694, which recognizes amblyopia as a serious eye condition and strongly urges screening before a child is school-age, was submitted by the Washington State Children’s Vision Coalition and is supported by a Federal Way optometrist who specializes in treatment of the condition.

But Dr. Curtis Baxstrom, who runs a referral practice at Northwest Vision Development Center, said he wishes the resolution language urged parents to get their children tested by age 2 or 3, rather than during the preschool years.

“My feeling is that every child should be seen probably by age 2. We still need it a little bit earlier than that because the earlier you treat amblyopia, the better you can treat it,” Baxstrom said. “The longer it’s put off before the child’s found to be amblyopic, the less chance of a full visual recovery you have.”

In amblyopia, one eye sees poorly. The condition can be caused by damage in the vision center of the brain, an obstruction in vision in one eye due to disease or damage, and misaligned eyes, among other reasons.

With amblyopia, the stronger eye compensates for the poor eye, and the brain may begin to ignore images from the weak eye. And although rare, untreated amblyopia can lead to unilateral vision, or blindness.

Vision can often be corrected with eyeglasses, patching or covering the better eye so the weaker eye has to work, and various forms of vision therapy.

The University of Washington’s Department of Ophthalmology estimates that 5 million people nationwide suffer from amblyopia.

Federal Way Public Schools conducts basic distance vision tests, said a spokeswoman.

March was National Save Your Vision month.

State Rep. Ruth Kagi, one of the legislators who sponsored the resolution for the children’s vision coalition, said that while “other states are legislating mandatory exams, the coalition’s approach is to use public education to encourage parents to get their children screened and examined.”

Staff writer Elizabeth Ciepiela: 925-5565, eciepiela@fedwaymirror.com

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