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Acupuncture May Help Lazy Eye

Results as Good as Patching, but Experts Say More Study Needed
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Acupuncture for Lazy Eye: A Closer Look

Lam can't explain exactly how the acupuncture for lazy eye might work. Acupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain and eye, stimulating retinal nerve growth factors and leading to metabolic changes in the central nervous system, he writes.

These actions may explain the effect on the amblyopia, he speculates.

Acupuncture vs. Patching

Two experts who reviewed the study for WebMD but were not involved in it call the study scientifically sound, but they note that it is small and that acupuncture is much more widely accepted in China than elsewhere.

''The amount of improvement here, almost two lines [on the eye chart], is a lot," says Michael Repka, MD, a professor of ophthalmology and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Unviersity School of Medicine's Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore.

However, he notes, it is an initial report and a single study.

Some of the improvement could have come from wearing glasses, he says.

"There's a time commitment for this," he says of the acupuncture. "These kids went five days a week." He also cites expense and parent time to get the child to the acupuncturist as potential drawbacks.

The patch is typically worn two hours a day, can be worn at home, and is inexpensive, he says.

The extra time to go to an acupuncturist may be a drawback, agrees Matthew Gearinger, MD, an associate professor of ophthalmology and medicine at the Flaum Eye Institute at the University of Rochester School of Medicine.

The fear of needles, he says, is probably not much of a problem with the older children studied. "You can probably talk them into it," he says.

If a U.S. parent wanted to try acupuncture to help their child's anisometropic amblyopia, Gearinger says he would probably agree, with continued follow-up with an ophthalmologist.

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