Programmable electronic glasses help improve vision in children with amblyopia just as well as more traditional treatment using eye patches, according to a small study undertaken at Glick Eye Institute at Indiana University.
The study results were presented at the 2015 American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting in Las Vegas where the digital patch was described as “the first new effective treatment for lazy eye in half a century”.
Amblyopia, also referred to as lazy eye, remains the most common cause of visual impairment in children. The child needs to receive treatment by the age of around eight while their eyes and brain are still developing, or he or she could become blind in the weaker eye.
A recent study found one in four kids feel anxiety before using eye drops and nearly 15 per cent refuse to take them. Both drops and eye patches work based on the occlusion method. This blocks vision in the eye with the best sight, forcing the brain to rely on the so-called lazy eye. During the process, vision improves though many children will still need glasses to correct their eyesight.
In comparison, the electronic glasses used in this study combine vision correction and occlusion. The lenses can be filled to fit a child’s vision prescription. Because the lenses are liquid crystal display (LCD), they can also be programmed to turn opaque, occluding vision in the left or right eye for different time intervals, acting like a digital patch that flickers on and off.
Researchers at the Glick Eye Institute tested the effectiveness of occlusion glasses compared to patching in a randomised clinical study. They recruited 33 subjects with lazy eye between age three and eight who wore spectacles to correct their vision. One group wore an adhesive patch for two hours daily. The other wore Amblyz occlusion glasses for four hours daily. In the study, the lens over the eye with better vision switched from clear to opaque every 30 seconds. After three months, both groups of children showed the same amount of improvement in the lazy eye, gaining two lines on a reading chart.
“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 Dr. Daniel Neely, a paediatric ophthalmology professor at Indiana University who led the study.
“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.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the Amblyz occlusion glasses as a medical device. They are available in the United States from eye care professionals for around US$450.