Treating a child with eye drops on the weekend alone may be enough to correct a lazy eye (search), according to a new study.
Researchers say the findings suggest that giving drops just twice during the weekend to children with a lazy eye is just as effective as giving them daily eye drops or having them wear an eye patch.
"As anyone who has given eye drops to a child knows, this is good news," says researcher Oscar Cruz, MD, chairman of the department of ophthalmology at Saint Louis University, in a news release. "It makes it much less of a hassle to administer the medicine, which is crucial for young patients to develop healthy vision."
Lazy eye, known in medical terms as amblyopia, is the most common cause of vision loss in children and young adults. The condition affects as many as 3 percent of children in the U.S. and usually begins in infancy or early childhood.
Lazy eye occurs when the brain favors one eye over the other. It can be corrected by temporarily worsening the vision in the stronger eye, which forces the lazy eye to work harder in order to compensate.
In the past, this was accomplished by placing an eye patch over the non-lazy eye. But recent research has shown that similar results can be achieved by using daily eye drops containing atropine that temporarily blur vision.
Two Drops Enough to Correct Lazy Eye
In the study, which appears in the November issue of Ophthalmology, researchers compared the effectiveness of using daily vs. twice weekly atropine eye drops in treating 168 children under the age of 7 with lazy eye. Half of the children received daily eye drops and the other half received drops on Saturday and Sunday only.
After four months of treatment, children in both groups were able to read an average of 2.3 lines higher on a standard eye chart.
In addition, 47 percent of the children who got daily drops and 53 percent of those who received weekend drops had vision in their lazy eye improve to normal levels by the end of the study.
Researchers say this degree of improvement is similar to that accomplished by daily eye patching.
The results suggest that twice weekly eye drops may provide an easier-to-follow alternative to daily eye drops or eye patches in correcting lazy eye in young children.
"The daily burden of administering drops usually falls on the parent, and if weekend eye drops are a good option, the regimen not only relieves some of this burden but may also encourage compliance with the treatment," says researcher Michael Repka, MD, a pediatric ophthalmologist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, in a news release. "Compliance is very important, since timely and successful treatment for amblyopia in childhood can prevent lifelong visual impairment."
SOURCES: Ophthalmology, November 2004; vol 111. News release, Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. News release, St. Louis University.