What to Know About Eye Patches for Vision Problems

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on August 25, 2022
5 min read

Eye patches can help treat some types of vision problems, especially in the case of children. Depending on the problem, you might need to wear it for several hours a day. 

An eye patch is a piece of fabric or other material that you wear over your eye. It blocks vision in one eye and treats some vision problems with what is called occlusion therapy. Patches are also common to wear after eye procedures. 

Eye patches have a few key uses in eye care. 

Protection. Eye patches cover your eye, so they’re a great way to protect your eye after surgery or other procedures. They can help prevent infection after cataract surgery and stop dust or other items from getting into your eye and causing irritation. A patch can also help you avoid rubbing or touching your eye after surgery. 

Healing. Wearing an eye patch after a procedure can protect your eye, giving it time to heal. You might start with gauze bandages. Their gentle pressure can help lower swelling and bruising. 

Lazy eye. Eye patches for kids are a common treatment for some eye conditions, like amblyopia, also called lazy eye. This condition occurs when vision doesn’t develop normally early in life. It causes problems with eyesight, and the eye wanders either inward or outward. An eye patch is a common treatment.

Squint. Sometimes, doctors recommend an eye patch for strabismus. Also called squint, strabismus occurs your eyes are misaligned. One eye drifts in, out, or up while the other looks straight ahead, which can cause vision problems. Without treatment, you might develop a squint, which is where the name of this condition comes from. 

Double vision. An eye patch can also treat double vision (diplopia). Double vision occurs when you look at one thing but see two images of it. Double vision that happens when both eyes are open is called binocular diplopia. Closing one eye often helps, so your doctor might recommend an eye patch as treatment.

There are a few types of eye patches. You can buy most over the counter at the pharmacy or from your eye doctor. If the patch is a treatment to correct poor vision, make sure it’s snug around the eye. That way, you or your child can’t peek around it and lose the benefits.

Adhesive patch. An adhesive patch sticks to your skin over your eye like a bandage. These are a great option if you don’t wear glasses, but you can also wear them under your eyewear, too. These patches are the best for children, as they might stay on longer and make sure the eye is fully covered. If your skin turns red or gets irritated, though, try a hypoallergenic version. 

Cloth patch. As it sounds, a cloth patch is made of soft fabric. It usually has a string you wrap around your head that holds it in place. It doesn’t stick to your skin and is washable and reusable. 

Eyeglass lens cover. If your child wears glasses, a lens cover patch is a great option. These patches slip over your eyeglasses and temporarily block the lens. You can find them in different fabrics and prints, and they’re also washable and reusable. In a pinch, opaque tape over the lens will also work. 

Eye shield and pad. These types of eye patches are the disposable gauze pads and bandages you use after eye surgery. You’ll need to use these until your eye heals up or until your doctor tells you to stop bandaging your eye. 

Eye patches have a few benefits, including improving your symptoms and vision.

Strengthen a weak eye. If your child has a lazy eye, you place the eye patch over the dominant eye, which forces the weaker eye to work harder. This method can help the eye gain strength and improve vision. 

Your doctor might recommend wearing the patch between 2 to 6 hours a day, depending on your child’s vision. You can have your child do some arts and crafts or other close-up activities during patch time to make the eye more active.   

Noninvasive treatment. One important benefit of eye patch therapy is that it’s inexpensive and noninvasive but also effective. Patching works best for children under age 7. Early treatment with an eye patch can lead to greater improvement in vision and might help you avoid other, more invasive treatments.  

Improve symptoms. If you experience binocular double vision, an eye patch can help. The patch blocks the images from one eye, making your vision clearer. This can help lower some symptoms like nausea and headaches. 

Wearing an eye patch is fairly simple: 

  1. Start by washing your hands with soap and water.
  2. Determine which eye the patch goes on. If you’re treating strabismus or lazy eye, you’ll want to place the patch on the stronger eye. Following a surgery, you’ll want to put it over the eye your doctor worked on. 
  3. Make sure the skin around the eye is clean and dry.
  4. Place a new disposable patch or clean, reusable patch over the eye. Follow the instructions on the package. The narrow end should touch the bridge of the nose. 
  5. Wear the patch for as long as your doctor says. Use distractions to help a child manage the adjustment.
  6. Remove the patch and apply petroleum jelly to soothe any irritated skin.

An eye patch can be uncomfortable for your child. Patch treatment for a lazy eye blocks the stronger eye, so your child will have poor vision for a while. This can be very tiring. You might find your child is emotional, doesn’t want to wear the patch, or takes it off constantly. 

Start by explaining what it’s for and make the patch time exciting. Provide rewards and praise and stay positive. If you have questions or your child refuses to wear the patch, talk to your doctor.