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Lazy Eye Treatments Don't Traumatize Children

Eye Patches, Glasses for Lazy Eye Don't Harm Kids' Emotional Well-Being
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Aug. 4, 2004 -- The eye patches and glasses used to treat young children with lazy eye may cause some distress among parents, but new research suggests they aren't likely to harm the children's emotional well-being.

In the largest study to date on the emotional impact of lazy eye treatments in children, British researchers found that parents often experience difficulty in getting their children to wear patches or glasses designed to help correct lazy eye. But most children cope well with the treatment.

Lazy eye, known in medical terms as amblyopia, occurs when one eye is not used enough for the visual system in the brain to develop properly. The brain ignores the images from the weak eye and uses only those from the stronger eye, leading to poor vision. Early treatment of lazy eye in young children can partially or completely reverse the condition, but it becomes much more difficult to treat successfully after children's vision is fully developed by about age 9 or 10.

The Emotional Effect of Lazy Eye Treatments

In the study, published in the August issue of the journal Ophthalmology, researchers surveyed parents of 151 children who were referred for treatment of lazy eye from a preschool vision screening. The children were randomly assigned to treatment with glasses with or without eye patches, glasses alone, or to have their treatment deferred for one year.

The children's reaction to treatment at ages 4 and 5 were similar. At both ages, about half of the parents reported at least some difficulty in getting their child to wear his or her glasses, but less than a third of children were ever upset by this treatment.

But the parents of children treated with eye patches had a harder time. Three-quarters of parents said they had difficulty getting children to wear their patch for the prescribed three hours per day at both ages, and more than half of the children were at least occasionally upset by this treatment.

Parents of 4-year-olds assigned to wear patches were also significantly more likely to be upset by their child's patching treatment than those who had been prescribed glasses.

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