Why did my doctor prescribe patching therapy?
Amblyopia, also known as lazy eye, is a condition that occurs when one eye develops good vision while the other does not. The eye with poorer vision is called “amblyopic”. Usually, only one eye is affected by amblyopia. The condition is common, affecting approximately 2 or 3 out of every 100 people. The best time to correct amblyopia is during infancy or early childhood. Patching the better seeing eye or using an eye drop (Atropine) are the cornerstones of amblyopia treatment after glasses have been prescribed in cases where a significant refractive error exists.
Why does we patch the “strong” eye?
A child must use the “weak eye” for vision to develop in that eye. Patching the better seeing eye to force the brain to use the amblyopic eye. The weaker eye must be forced to stimulate the visual cortex of the brain if vision is to develop. If amblyopia is not diagnosed and treated in a timely fashion, several problems may occur:
- The amblyopic eye may develop a serious and permanent visual defect
- Depth perception (seeing in three dimensions) may not develop
- If the good eye becomes diseased or injured, a lifetime of poor vision may result
How long do we have to patch?
Patching is continued until the best possible vision is obtained. This may take from a few weeks to several months to achieve, depending on the severity of the amblyopia, and compliance with the therapy. The child’s progress is periodically monitored by the pediatric ophthalmologist.
Even after vision has developed in the amblyopic eye, part time patching and/or Atropine may, in some cases, be required over an extended period of time to maintain the improved vision. Amblyopia is usually treated before surgery to correct any strabismus (eye alignment). Patching may be continued after surgery as well to obtain the best possible vision.
My child does not like to patch, what can I do?
Your pediatric ophthalmologist can give you instructions on how to treat amblyopia, but it is up to you and your child to carry out this treatment. Children do not like to have their eyes patched, especially if they have been depending on the better seeing eye to “do all the work”. As a parent, you must convince your child to do what is best for him or her. Near vision activities such as small screen electronic games (not movies), puzzles, dot to dot and other crafts often entice young minds. Like immunizations, the experience may initially be unpleasant for your child, but you know that it is in his or her best interest and involvement, as well as your ability to gain your child’s cooperation. Parents play an extremely important role in determining whether their child’s amblyopia will be effectively treated, and how the child will see for the rest of his or her life.