Say goodbye to eye patches. Kids with lazy eye can now wear electronic glasses to correct their vision.
In the first US trial of the device, researchers from the Glick Eye Institute at Indiana University (IU) found that Amblyz occlusion glasses helped improve vision in children with amblyopia — more commonly known as lazy eye — as well as traditional eye patch treatment.
According to these researchers, this "digital patch" is the first effective treatment developed for the treatment of lazy eye in more than 50 years.
Amblyopia is poor vision in an eye that did not develop normally during early childhood. This condition typically results from a failure to use both eyes together, which can occur when one eye is much more nearsighted or farsighted than the other, or when one eye wanders or strays inward.
If there is a large enough difference between the vision in both eyes, the brain learns to ignore one image in favor of the other. If left untreated, the vision in the eye that is ignored can become weaker from disuse.
Reduced vision due to amblyopia is not correctable with glasses alone. A child needs to receive treatment while the eyes and brain are still developing (by about age 8), or she could lose vision in the weaker eye.
But kids often refuse to cooperate with traditional amblyopia treatments like eye patches or medicated drops. Amblyz glasses, on the other hand, are programmed to turn opaque over the left and right eye at different intervals — acting like a "digital patch" that flickers on and off. The glasses can also be fitted to a child's existing vision prescription.
"When you talk to adults who underwent childhood treatment for amblyopia, they will tell you that wearing a patch was the worst thing ever," said lead study author Daniel Neely, MD, a pediatric ophthalmology professor at IU, in a press release. "With these electronic occlusion glasses, the child learns that the lens will be clear again in just a few seconds so they may be more cooperative with the treatment. For parents who have struggled with drops and patching, this could be a great alternative."
For this study, Dr. Neely and team looked at 33 children with amblyopia between ages 3 and 8 who wore glasses to correct their vision. One group wore an adhesive eye patch for two hours per day. The other group wore Amblyz occlusion glasses for four hours per day.
The glasses were programmed to alternate the lens over the lazy eye from clear to opaque every 30 seconds.
After three months, these researchers found that both groups had the same amount of improvement in vision, gaining the ability to read two more lines on a eye chart.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved Amblyz occlusion glasses as a medical device. They are now available from eye care professionals for about $450 in the US.
This study was presented Nov. 14 at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.
Information on funding sources and conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.