Amblyopia / Lazy Eye (Children)
Amblyopia (commonly called “lazy eye”) is decreased vision of one eye, or less commonly both eyes, in an otherwise structurally normal eye. Amblyopia is often caused by a difference in glasses prescription between the two eyes or eye misalignment (strabismus). To treat amblyopia in children, we often use occlusion therapy or patching.
Patching works by covering the ‘good’ eye and forcing the child to use the amblyopic eye and stimulating those neural pathways. Patching can be difficult for children because they understand why they need a patch and the patch can be uncomfortable. Since vision is not affected, children get frustrated when the patch covers their ‘good’ eye. Here are tips that may help if you must patch to make it more enjoyable:
Patch the Right Way: We always recommend an adhesive-style patch. Kids are smart and want to see well so they will likely ‘cheat’ and peek around other types of patches, like a pirate patch. If the adhesive patches make their skin red or irritated you can use some milk of magnesia on their skin before placing the patch so it doesn’t irritate the skin as much. The child should always wear their glasses over their patch if they wear glasses.
Use Distraction Techniques: When you’re beginning to patch, try to find a time when you can give your child your undivided attention. If patching an infant, try patching during a meal time or when playing with their favorite high-contrast toys. Playing a game like patty-cake can keep their hands busy. Getting close to them and making eye contact can also be helpful. Placing the patch when the child is napping and letting them wake up with it on may help them accept it more easier. If you’re patching an older child and they have a favorite activity or treat, this may be a great time to use it as an incentive.
Keep it Up: Using a reward system, such as a chart, with older children encourages them to wear their patch. For every day they wear their patch well, place a star. After 10 stars the child earns a reward such as 10 minutes of extra screen time or an activity. A routine can help a child remember to patch and reduce complaints. Although it may not be fun, it’s not a choice — much like putting on your seat belt or brushing your teeth.
Never hesitate to contact your provider’s office. with questions. Patching can be a trying task for many families, but it has lifetime benefits.