Research to Prevent Blindness

Hope Through Research: Amblyopia & Strabismus

Doctor with vision screening equipmentThe earlier amblyopia is detected, the more effective the treatment. RPB support is improving screening rates and identifying effective screening methods for young children. For people with strabismus, RPB researchers are investigating improved surgical methods, alternatives to surgery and advanced imaging methods to aid in diagnosis and management of the condition.


Improvements in detection rates and screening methods of young children:

  • Photoscreening (a technique using pictures of the retina) proves accurate in detecting possible amblyopia (Abstract)
  • Photoscreening by trained lay volunteers helps detect amblyopia in preschool children  (Abstract)
  • New handheld pediatric vision screening device identifies eye misalignment  (Abstract)
  • Early treatment of near and far vision may slow ambylopia (Abstract)


The RPB Walt and Lilly Disney Award for Amblyopia Research, created through a pledge from The Walt and Lilly Disney Foundation, provides funds to respected ophthalmic scientists for research into improved detection, treatment or cures for amblyopia, a condition that usually develops in children before they can speak, making it particularly difficult to detect.

Since its inception, in 2002, the Award has been given to:

David R. Copenhagen, Ph.D.

University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine

Joseph M. Miller, M.D. M.P.H.

University of Arizona College of Medicine

Joseph L. Demer, M.D., Ph.D.

David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Michael Mustari, Ph.D.

University of Washington School of Medicine

Jeffrey L. Goldberg, M.D., Ph.D.

University of California, San Diego, Shiley Eye Center

Anthony M. Norcia, Ph.D

Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute (press release)

David L. Guyton, M.D.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

John D. Porter, Ph.D.

Case Western Reserve University

Jonathan C. Horton, M.D., Ph.D.

University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine

R. Lawrence Tychsen, M.D.

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

David G. Hunter, M.D., Ph.D.

Harvard Medical School

Erik M. Ullian, Ph.D.

University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine

Mary A. Johnson, Ph.D.

University of Maryland School of Medicine

David K. Wallace, M.D., M.P.H.

Duke University School of Medicine

Ronald V. Keech, M.D.

University of Iowa College of Medicine

Howard S. Ying, M.D., Ph.D.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine


Advances in understanding the causes and progress of strabismus: 

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) identifies link between strabismus and retinal detachment surgery (Abstract)
  • MRI identifies problem areas in nerves of the brain, aiding diagnosis of an adult form of strabismus (Abstract)
  • New tests monitor severity of double vision and the ability to detect differences in distance (Abstract 1, Abstract  2)

Developments in surgical techniques:

  • New wound closure technique eliminates sutures (Abstract)
  • Combined removal and movement of extraocular muscles improves treatment for strabismic patients with variable eye misalignment (Abstract)
  • Laser refractive surgery corrects near and far vision in children unwilling or unable to wear glasses (Abstract)

Discoveries of drugs to reduce surgery dependency:

  • Strengthening underacting extraocular muscles using therapeutic doses of natural proteins and toxins helps align eyes (Abstract 1, Abstract 2, Abstract 3)


Dr. Hunter scans a child with a prototype vision screener

David G. Hunter, M.D., Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School, scans a child with a prototype Pediatric Vision Screener (PVS). The PVS, which identifies strabismus with high sensitivity and specificity in children, may someday be used by primary care providers for early detection of amblyopia. 

An RPB-supported study revealed that children whose eyes diverge (a form of strabismus called exotropia) may be three times more likely to develop a psychiatric disorder.    


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