News Releases

November 11, 2003

Emory Eye Center physician finds lesser amount of patching effective for treating lazy eye in children

(ATLANTA) There is good news on all fronts for children who have severe lazy eye or amblyopia. A recent study conducted at Emory Eye Center and 31 other sites found that children with amblyopia between the ages of three and seven years can be treated just as effectively with a six-hour daily regimen of patching as with a full-time patching regimen for all waking hours. This is the conclusion of a study conducted by the Pediatric Eye Disease Investigator Group that appears in the November issue of Ophthalmology. Ophthalmology is the clinical journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Eye M.D. Association.

This research finding should led to better compliance with treatment and improved quality of life for children with severe amblyopia. At least three to four percent of children in the United States suffer from amblyopia, a condition that decreases vision, most often due to crossing of the eyes or having one eye with uncorrected refractive error (i.e. farsightedness, astigmatism or high nearsightedness).

In this randomized clinical trial conducted at sites across the United States, Canada and Mexico, 175 children with visual acuity of 20/100 to 20/400 in the amblyopic eye were prescribed patching for six-hour or full-time regimens.

After four months, the improvement in visual acuity in the six-hour group was nearly identical to the improvement in the full-time group. Jonathan M. Holmes, MD, a pediatric ophthalmologist at the Mayo Clinic and co-chair of the Pediatric Eye Disease Investigator Group, said patching for fewer hours eases implementation of the therapy and compliance monitoring for parents. Dr. Holmes, who chaired the study, further explained, "The caveat should be that if the child doesn't respond to six hours per day, then increased patching intensity should be considered. But for severe amblyopia, it is reasonable to start with six hours a day of patching, rather than full-time patching."

"This is the latest in a series of important research results that will help preserve the vision of children with amblyopia," said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Eye Institute (NEI), National Institutes of Health, the Federal government agency that funded the study.

Emory's Principal Investigator Scott Lambert, MD, says "This important study suggests that children with ambloypia (severe) can recover from with lesser amounts of patching that may be just as effective as full-time patching. We don't yet know if lower amounts of patching will be as effective," he says, "but this six-hour regimen is good news for parents and children alike."

Most children in the study achieved an outcome in the 20/32 to 20/63 range, but it is important to note that this study was not designed to determine the maximum improvement possible. Many of the children in the study stayed on treatment for several months after the conclusion of the study to further improve their vision.


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