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'Lazy Eye' Therapy Can Help Older Children

Placing patch on healthy eye improved vision in kids over age 7

TUESDAY, April 12, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Children over 7 years of age -- including teens -- with amblyopia, or "lazy eye," may benefit from treatments traditionally restricted to much younger patients, according to a new study.

"Previously, many eye specialists thought treating amblyopia in older children would be ineffective, but we found that many teenagers responded to treatment. In our opinion, age alone should not determine whether or not to treat" the condition, study co-author Dr. Michael Repka, a pediatric ophthalmologist at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, said in a prepared statement.

Amblyopia is the leading cause of childhood vision problems, affecting up to 3 percent of Americans youngsters. It occurs because the brain begins to "favor" one eye, leading to poorer vision in the other. A type of treatment involving the patching of the unaffected healthy eye has proven effective in very young children, but this latest study focused on its usefulness in children aged 7 to 17.

The study, reported in the April issue of the journal Archives of Ophthalmology, included 507 children divided into two groups. One group received new prescription glasses, while the other group received glasses with a fitted eye patch or an eye patch with atropine eye drops covering the healthy eye.

Patching was for periods of two to six hours a day with daily administration of eye drops. Children wearing patches or receiving eye drops were told to do "near-vision" activities, such as reading or drawing.

After 24 weeks, 53 percent of the children aged 7 to 12 with glasses, eye patch treatment and near-vision activity could read at least two more lines on a standard eye chart than they could at the start of the study. The researchers defined this as successful vision improvement. A quarter of the children using glasses alone also achieved this improvement.

Among children ages 13 to 17, nearly half improved after being treated with glasses and eye patches and 20 percent of the children treated with glasses alone responded to treatment.

More information

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has more about amblyopia.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, news release, April 6, 2005
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