Lazy eye -- or amblyopia to use the medical term -- is the leading cause of decreased vision in one eye among children, according to Mayo Clinic. Lazy eye develops when one eye receives fewer visual signals that causes it to send blurry images to the brain. Because of this, the brain eventually ignores the images sent by the weaker eye. The weaker eye then works less and less, making it “lazy” or amblyopic.
Treatment for lazy eye has a high success rate. The most common treatment is patching -- the unaffected eye is covered so as to give the lazy eye a chance to be used more often.
However, a recent study may have found a potentially more efficient method to treat lazy eye -- an iPad game. Because patching forces the eyes to work separately, it’s not guaranteed that the two eyes will work together in unison after treatment. But the iPad game, called Dig Rush, involves the use of two eyes, so it is possible to yield better results, researchers of the study theorize, according to Science Daily.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Opthalmology, involved 28 children with amblyopia -- 14 were assigned to binocular treatment via an iPad game and the other 14 to patching treatment. In the game, children control miners to get as many gold as they can, according to Live Science. While playing the game, the children must wear specialized glasses that reduce contrast of in-game elements (like the gold cart) in the stronger eye and increase contrast of other elements (like the miners) for the weaker eye.
Researchers instructed the iPad group to play the game for an hour a day, five days a week, for two weeks. The patching group wore an eye-patch for two hours a day, every day of the week, for the same number of weeks.
The results showed promise. Researchers Krista R. Kelly, Ph.D. of the Retina Foundation of the Southwest in the U.S. and her colleagues found that 40 percent of the iPad group achieved 20/32 vision; only 7 percent from the eye-patch group got the same result.
The eye-patch group were then made to try the iPad treatment for two weeks. The original game group continued on for two more weeks as well. Four weeks into the experiment, there was no difference in the vision of the two groups.
“We showed that in just two weeks, visual acuity gain with binocular treatment [was comparable] to six months of patching, suggesting that binocular treatment may yield faster gains than patching,” said the researchers. “Whether long-term binocular treatment is as effective in remediating amblyopia as patching remains to be investigated.”
In the Philippines, one out of 10 school-age children have eye problems, 25 percent of which have amblyopia, says the Department of Health. If left untreated before the child turns 7 years old, lazy eye can lead to permanent vision loss to the affected eye which is why strong efforts have been made by the government to detect them in children as early as possible.
Signs of a lazy eye include: eyes that appear to not work together, one eye wandering inward or outward on its own, poor depth perception and squinting or shutting one eye. Sometimes, however, lazy eye can only be detected with an eye exam or screening.
Near-sightedness or far-sightedness in kids can also lead to lazy eye if not corrected, Dr. Joanne Bolinao, pediatric ophthalmologist at American Eye Center, told SmartParenting.com.ph in a previous article. She advises that kids be screened for potential eye problems, even if none have manifested yet, before age 7.