By TONY WU
Senior Staff Writer
Amblyopia, or lazy eye, is a disorder that reduces vision in one eye. Most cases of lazy eye occur in early childhood when doctors can correct a patient’s vision through surgery, eye drops or eye patches. However, these corrective methods may be inconvenient or difficult to administer.
Recently, the FDA approved newly invented electronic, programmable glasses as an additional treatment for amblyopia.
In patients with amblyopia, the brain cannot process the visual input from one eye. For these people, vision in the eye is reduced, forcing the brain to rely heavily on visual information from the other eye. Gradually, these vision problems can become permanent and, therefore, unresolvable through medical treatments. The treatments are usually effective when the patients start the treatment before the age of eight, when their brains are still developing.
Treatments using eye patches, eye drops and the new, programmable glasses can correct lazy eye through occlusion. The instrument blocks visual input from the dominant eye and forces the brain to utilize information from the weaker eye. With eye patches, the patient has to adhere to a schedule of patching for four to six hours every day. Over time, the brain learns to incorporate information from the eye, and vision in the lazy eye improves. Though this technique improves their eyesight, many still require glasses in order to fully correct their vision.
Researchers at Indiana University assessed the effectiveness of electronic glasses as an alternative to traditional methods, such as eye drops and patches. These glasses can be programmed to act as a patch with different occluding times. Each glass panel can be switched on or off to provide visual input to the patient, allowing doctors to occlude the dominant eye while correcting lazy eye vision with prescription glasses.
To study the effectiveness of these glasses, researchers separated the test subjects into two groups. One group used the traditional eye patches to correct lazy eye, while the other wore the programmable glasses. These glasses were set to alternate between being opaque and clear every 30 seconds.
The subjects were tested with a reading chart after three months of treatment, and the results demonstrated that both groups displayed the same amount of improvements.
By using these programmable glasses, doctors can reduce the anxiety that young patients suffer when they use eye patches or eye drops. A study on children with prescription eye drops found that a quarter of the children felt anxiety before the administration of an eye drop and 15 percent of the patients refused to take the drops.
In addition, eye drops can have side-effects, such as nodules or localized inflammation in the eye. Similarly, eye patches may cause rashes or irritation, and many patients don’t like wearing eye patches because they feel uncomfortable after experiencing an extended period of visual deprivation in the dominant eye.