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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 May, 2003, 22:52 GMT 23:52 UK
Hope for children with eye disorder
One eye stops working properly

Children with squints can be treated by wearing an eye patch for two rather than the recommended six hours a day, say US doctors.

It means young patients do not have to wear the patch to school, reducing teasing and psychological stigma.

Some children with squints have what is known as a "lazy eye" (amblyopia), when one eye stops working properly.

It is normally treated by patching the good eye to make the other one work harder, thus improving vision.

The study looked at whether wearing a patch for two hours a day was as good as six hours in treating lazy eye.

According to a study sponsored by the US National Eye Institute, it does not make a difference to outcome.

"Prior to these results, many children with amblyopia had to wear an eye patch during school hours," said director Dr Paul Sieving.

"Now, children can look forward to attending school without the patch. This will make them feel better about themselves."

Parent power

Ann McIntyre, Principal Orthoptist at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Trust in London, said it was very important to monitor treatment carefully and recognise when two hours was not working.

"From our experience at Moorfields we would agree that many children do well with two hours patching daily and this is often what we start with," she said.

"An important aspect of this treatment is to work with the parents to help them implement the patching regime and gain maximum compliance from the child."

The study, published in Archives of Opthalmology, tested 189 children aged about five.

Half wore patches for two hours a day and the others for six hours. After four months more than 75% of children in both groups could read at least two more lines on the standard eye chart.

The children all had moderate amblyopia and the researchers point out that those more severely affected may need a different treatment regimen.


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