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Older children can 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 amblyopia (lazy eye) may benefit from treatments that are more commonly used on younger children.

Treatment improved the vision of many of the 507 older children with amblyopia studied at 49 eye centers. Previously, eye care professionals often thought that treating amblyopia in older children would be of little benefit. The study results, funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), appear in the April issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.

"Doctors can now feel confident that traditional treatments for amblyopia will work for many older children," said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NEI. "This is important because it is estimated that as many as three percent of children in the United States have some degree of vision impairment due to amblyopia. Many of these children do not receive treatment while they are young," he said.

Amblyopia is a leading cause of vision impairment in children and usually begins in infancy or childhood. It 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 eye (strabismus) or significant differences between the eyes in refractive error, such as, astigmatism, farsightedness, or nearsightedness.

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 as an eye patch, or the eye patch along with special eye drops, to limit use of the unaffected eye. These children were also asked to perform near vision activities. The patching, near activities, and eye drops force a child to use the eye with amblyopia. Patching was prescribed for periods of two to six hours daily, w
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Contact: Steve Berberich
berberichs@nei.nih.gov
301-496-5248
NIH/National Eye Institute
11-Apr-2005


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