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Video games can help correct lazy eye in children

young boy with a lazy eye playing video games

Could your child play a video game to correct lazy eye? Studies show that they could indeed.

Though amblyopia, or lazy eye, is often treated with corrective lenses, patching and eye exercises, doctors have found some more fun ways to treat it: with video games.

Read on for more information about childhood amblyopia, and a breakthrough treatment for the disorder.

What is lazy eye?

Amblyopia, or lazy eye, is a disorder that affects the visual acuity of an eye. It typically begins in infancy and early childhood, as vision develops, and affects 3% to 5% of children in the United States.

The causes of lazy eye

An important part of treating your child’s amblyopia is knowing and understanding which type they have. There are three types of amblyopia, which have varying underlying causes:

Deprivation amblyopia is caused by something that obstructs light from entering and being focused in a baby’s eye, like a congenital cataract. This cataract should be treated as soon as possible to allow for normal vision development.

Refractive amblyopia occurs when a child is born with a high refractive error in one eye, even though the eyes are perfectly aligned. 

Strabismic amblyopia develops when the eyes are not perfectly aligned. The brain favors the eye that is aligned correctly, leaving the misaligned eye to become the “lazy eye.”

The sooner amblyopia is identified, the sooner it can be treated appropriately.

WORRIED YOUR CHILD MIGHT BE DEVELOPING AMBLYOPIA? Book an appointment with a pediatric eye specialist near you today.

Conventional lazy eye treatment

If amblyopia is detected, it’s critical that it is treated promptly. Doctors routinely treat amblyopia by patching the dominant eye, which in turn, strengthens the weaker one. Vision therapy or eye exercises also play a big role in treating amblyopia. 

Corrective lenses are sometimes all that are needed to treat refractive amblyopia, while strabismic amblyopia is commonly treated with strabismus surgery, in addition to patching and vision therapy. Atropine eye drops have also helped some children manage their condition.

Untreated amblyopia can lead to permanent vision problems, including loss of vision in the affected eye. 

How to correct lazy eye in children with video games

While these conventional treatments of childhood amblyopia remain trusted, a specially designed video game shows promise, too, and could even be more effective.

In a two-week study conducted by the Retina Foundation of the Southwest, 28 children with amblyopia were divided into two groups and treated using two different methods.

Children in the first group wore an eyepatch for two hours a day during the 14-day period (28 hours total), while the second group played a binocular iPad game for one hour a day, for 10 out of the 14 days (10 hours total). Children in the second group wore a special pair of anaglyph eyeglasses, which like the patch, made the weaker eye work harder during the activity.

The study found that children who played the iPad game improved amblyopic eye visual acuity by 1.5 lines, and the children who were patched improved by 0.7 lines. Not only was the iPad game more effective — it required less time to see greater results.

Another study, conducted by the same organization, found that the improvements in best corrected visual activity (BCVA) obtained from binocular iPad games were retained for at least one year after treatment. Both studies showed that this particular video game treatment improves visual acuity more rapidly than patching.

Apps to correct lazy eye in children

Certain lazy eye video games can also be used to treat your child’s condition at home, with the use of 3D technology and specially designed apps for amblyopia that are available through mobile app stores.

Video games designed to improve amblyopia use special coloring, so in order to play and benefit from them, your child will also need a pair of 3D anaglyph glasses. These glasses are available in the color schemes of blue and red, as well as red and green. Since some games don’t allow color adjustment within the app, investing in both color schemes of glasses is recommended.

You can find apps for amblyopia for different ages, as well. Some amblyopia apps are designed for primary and pre-primary aged children, while others are more suitable for older age groups. Note: To see the best improvement, your child should play the video game for 40- to 60-minute sessions.

Many amblyopia apps feature matching games, puzzles and other eye coordination activities. Some of the highest-rated amblyopia Android and iOS apps include GamE-blyopia, Amblyopia — Lazy Eye and Lazy Eye Blocks.

Correcting lazy eye in children can be fun

Treating amblyopia during childhood is crucial for long-term vision health. Video games designed to correct lazy eye are beneficial because they provide long-lasting effects, as well as entertainment for children while they are performing eye exercises. Certain iPad games have also proven to provide children with quicker improvement than patching alone.

Of course, regular eye exams are a crucial part of caring for your child’s vision health, especially if they have a condition such as amblyopia. Exams are the best way to evaluate improvement and determine which measures of treatment are best for them.

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