There is one question that I love to ask, and hate to ask, when I lecture to others regarding vision and child development: ‘How is amblyopia treated’? The generally accepted treatment for amblyopia is “full-time patching.” This is one of the most pervasive and enduring myths regarding vision care. You would think that living in the 21st century we would have opened our eyes by now, to see through this veil of visual mythology. Neuroscientists and clinicians have confirmed, over and over again, that the treatment for amblyopia no longer needs to be so cruel.
Wonderful research by Stewart, Stephens and Fielder has shown that covering the non-amblyopic eye for three to six hours per day, while at home and engaging in specific fine-motor activities is more effective than patching for six hours or more.1 Earlier Blogs in VisionHelp regarding amblyopia have discussed how Bangerter Occluders and the use of binocular fusion therapy further augment the therapeutic result of part time, directed patching.
When will we stop sending children to school, covering their only well-functioning eye, and expecting them to perform academically, socially and athletically? Remember, when you patch an eye, you are really “patching the brain!” If a child is patched full time they may develop an “amblyopia for academic, social and athletic endeavors.” Developmental Optometrists understand this, and have long discarded outdated full-time patching and implemented 21st century treatments based on current research in neuroscience.
Carl G. Hillier, OD, FCOVD