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National trial shows older children benefit from treatment for childhood's most common eye disorder

Surprising results from a nationwide clinical trial show that many children age seven through 17 with lazy eye, or amblyopia, may benefit from treatments that are more commonly used on younger children.

Amblyopia is a leading cause of vision impairment in children and usually begins in infancy or childhood.

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Chief of Ophthalmology Richard W. Hertle, MD, co-chaired the study, which showed that treatment improved the vision of many of the 507 older children with amblyopia studied at 49 eye centers nationwide. Previously, many eye care professionals thought that treating amblyopia in older children would be of little benefit.

The study results, funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and coordinated by the Jaeb Center for Health Research in Tampa, FLA appears in the April issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.

Amblyopia is a condition resulting in poor vision in an otherwise healthy eye due to unequal or abnormal visual input while the brain is developing in infancy and childhood. The most common causes of amblyopia are crossed or wandering eyes (strabismus) or significant differences between the eyes in refractive error, i.e., astigmatism, farsightedness or nearsightedness.

Amblyopia affects as many as three percent of children in the U.S.

"This study shows how important it is to screen children of all ages for amblyopia." said Dr. Hertle. "Previously, patients were told there was nothing that could be done to help them. Now, there is something we can do and it has immediate results."

Children in the study were divided randomly into two groups. One group was fitted with new prescription glasses only. The other group was fitted with glasses as well an eye patch with near activities and/or special eye drops to limit use of the unaffected eye. The patching, near activities and eye drops force a child to use the eye with amblyopia
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Contact: Melanie Finnigan
Melanie.Finnigan@chp.edu
412-692-5502
Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
11-Apr-2005


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