Amblyopia Patching Tips
Amblyopia (commonly referred to as “lazy eye”) is a decreased vision of one or less commonly both eyes in an otherwise structurally normal eye. This is often caused by a difference in glasses prescription between the two eyes or eye misalignment (strabismus). To treat amblyopia, we often use occlusion therapy, or patching. This works by covering the ‘good’ eye and forcing the child to use the amblyopic eye and stimulating those neural pathways.
We understand that patching can be extremely difficult. Children often do not understand why they must patch, the patch is often not very comfortable, and they can often see quite well with their ‘good’ eye so they get very frustrated when you take that away from them. Here are some tips that may help you if you must patch your child and you are struggling or are just looking to make it more fun!
Patching 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 any other types of patches, like a pirate patch. If the adhesive patches start to make their skin red or irritated you can use some milk of magnesia on their skin before placing the patch so that it doesn’t irritate the skin so much. The child should always wear their glasses over their patch if they wear glasses.
Patching in the beginning: When you’re first beginning to patch, try to find a time when you can give your child your undivided attention. If you are patching an infant, patching during a favorite meal time or when playing with their favorite high contrast toys might be a great idea. Playing a game like patty-cake when you can keep their hands busy and make eye contact with them very close can be helpful, as well. It may help to put the patch on when they are napping and let them wake up with it on, they may not fight it so much. If you’re patching an older child and they have a favorite activity or snack that they don’t get very often, this is a great time to use that as incentive!
Keeping it up!: Using a reward system with older children can be a great way to encourage them to wear their patch well. For every day they wear their patch well, they get a check mark or star and for every 10 stars, they get a reward. We also love bribery! If they get limited ‘screen time’, consider giving an extra 10 minutes if they wear their patch without complaints! Keeping to a routine can be very helpful in both remembering and reducing complaints. Once it is part of routine, it’s like putting on your seat belt or brushing your teeth: it may not be fun, but it’s not a choice.
Never hesitate to reach out to your provider’s office. We know that this is a difficult and trying task for many families, but it is one that can have great benefits for the remainder of the child’s life.