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Lazy Eye Treatments Don't Traumatize Children

Eye Patches, Glasses for Lazy Eye Don't Harm Kids' Emotional Well-Being

WebMD Health News

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.

"It's clear that many parents have some difficulty with [lazy eye] treatment, and our results demonstrate how patching, in particular, was significantly more difficult to carry out than glasses wear alone," write researcher S. Hrisos, of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England, and colleagues.

However, the study showed that most parents in both treatment groups thought their child was coping well with the treatment and only a minority of parents said they had any arguments about lazy eye treatment at any age.

Moreover, no adverse effects of lazy eye treatments were found on the children's well-being during or after treatment.

"Most children were described as being happy, cooperative, and good tempered and having no problems at school or nursery at all ages, with no differences between treatment groups," write the researchers. "By 5.5 years, a small, but significant proportion was occasionally experiencing teasing at school, and all these were children who still wore glasses."

Researchers say the results show that compliance with prescribed lazy eye treatments can be difficult and cause distress for parents and children. They say this may be improved by giving parents detailed information about their child's condition and treatment and taking a flexible approach to treating lazy eye in young children.

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