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Eye drops to treat childhood eye disorder work as well as patching the eye

Atropine eye drops given once a day to treat amblyopia, or lazy eye, the most common cause of visual impairment in children, work as well as the standard treatment of patching one eye. This research finding may lead to better compliance with treatment and improved quality of life in children with this eye disorder. These results appear in the March issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.

After six months of treatment, researchers found that the drug atropine, when placed in the unaffected eye once a day, works as well as eye patching and may encourage better compliance. Compliance is an important factor in the success of amblyopia therapy. Treatment should be started when the child is young, since amblyopia is more effectively treated in children under seven years of age. Timely and successful treatment for amblyopia in childhood can prevent lifelong visual impairment.

These results are important because they provide an effective alternative treatment that helps prevent permanent vision impairment for children with amblyopia, said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Eye Institute, one of the Federal governments National Institutes of Health and the agency that sponsored the study. Amblyopia is currently treated by wearing an eye patch over one eye for weeks to months. Children usually do not like this treatment approach because of quality of life issues, such as irritation of the skin and teasing by other children. This new study found that atropine eye drops had a higher acceptance rate and better compliance by children and their parents than did patching. This may well become a new standard treatment for some forms of amblyopia.

Amblyopia, or lazy eye, is a condition of poor vision in an otherwise healthy eye because the brain has learned to favor the other eye. Although the eye with amblyopia looks normal, there is interference with normal visual processing, that limits the development of a portion of the brain responsibl
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Contact: Michael Coogan
mjc@nei.nih.gov
301-496-5248
NIH/National Eye Institute
13-Mar-2002


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