Quick Study: Acupuncture helps some kids with lazy eye

Monday, December 20, 2010; 7:00 PM


Acupuncture helps some kids with lazy eye

THE QUESTION When a child has amblyopia, or lazy eye, using corrective lenses and periodically patching the other eye is the traditional treatment. But it doesn't help all children, and school-age children often object to wearing the patches. Might acupuncture offer an option?

THIS STUDY randomly assigned 88 children, 7 to 12 years old, who were wearing corrective lenses because of amblyopia caused by differing degrees of near- or farsightedness, known as anisometropia, to one of two treatment groups. Children in one group wore a felt patch on the "good" eye for two hours a day and spent at least one of those hours reading, working on a computer or similarly exercising the other eye. The other children were given acupuncture treatments five days a week and did eye activities for an hour daily. Acupuncture was given at five points: on the top of the head, near the nose end of the eyebrow, in the temple, on the hand and on the ankle. After about three months, lazy eye was considered resolved in 42 percent of those given acupuncture, compared with 17 percent of those who wore a patch. In addition, both groups showed improvement in vision: 76 percent of the acupuncture group and 67 percent of those who'd worn a patch could read two more lines on an eye-test chart.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Children with amblyopia, who have reduced vision in one eye because the brain and the eye are not working together properly. Anisometropic amblyopia accounts for about half of all cases of lazy eye. It also can be caused by cataracts, strabismus (an imbalance that causes the eyes to cross or turn outward) or other eye conditions. Amblyopia affects about 3 percent of children in the United States and can continue into adulthood if not treated.

CAVEATS Whether acupuncture would help children with other types of amblyopia was not tested. Differences, such as in technique and points used for needling, exist among acupuncturists and might yield different results. Six of the 11 study authors have applied for a U.S. patent for vision improvement methods using acupuncture.

FIND THIS STUDY December issue of Archives of Ophthalmology (www.archophthalmol.com).

LEARN MORE ABOUT amblyopia at www.nei.nih.gov and www.eyecareamerica.org.

- Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company