Acupuncture May Help Treat Lazy Eye

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Acupuncture may eventually become another optional treatment apart from patching for  HYPERLINK “” \o “What Is Lazy Eye? What Is Amblyopia? What Causes Lazy Eye Or Amblyopia?” lazy eye, also known as amblyopia, especially among older children who have a poorer response to patching, say researchers from China in Archives of Ophthalmology.

Lazy eye is a condition that appears during early childhood – the eyesight in one of the eyes does not develop as it should.  In the majority of cases only one eye is affected.  Young eyes need proper visual stimulation in order for mature vision to develop.  When a child has amblyopia their brain focuses on one eye much more than the other; in fact, the lazy eye may be ignored altogether. Lack of stimulation of that eye may result in the visual brain cells not maturing normally.  Approximately 0.3 to 5% of people globally are affected by lazy eye, and amblyopia is one of the most common causes of monocular blindness (partial or total blindness in one eye) in the USA and Canada.

Between one-third and a half of all lazy eye cases are caused by variations in the degree of myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness) between the two eyes; a condition known as anisometropia.  These variations are more effectively corrected with glasses or contact lenses before a child reaches seven years of age. Unfortunately, when the child is older, for example from 7 to 12, visual correction alone is only effective in about 30% of cases.  The addition of patching one eye – known as occlusion therapy – can improve children’s response rates considerably as long as they comply with the doctors instructions.  Compliance with patching can be a problem, especially when the vision in the lazy eye is very poor.  Patching can also cause emotional problems, and there is a small risk of reverse amblyopia.

Jianhao Zhao, M.D., of Joint Shantou International Eye Center of Shantou University and Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shantou, China, wanted to see how effective acupuncture was compared to patching for the treatment of lazy eye.  They carried out a randomized, controlled trial with 88 children. The children were assigned to one of two groups:

Acupuncture Group – 43 children. They were given five treatment sessions each week, which targeted five needle insertion sites, also known as acupoints.

Patching Group – 45 children. Their good eye was patched for two hours each day. They had to do near-vision activities with their lazy eye for one hour each day. Near vision activities include reading or typing.

After a total of 15 weeks’ worth of treatment the following results were found:

Visual acuity improved by 2.3 lines in the Acupuncture Group

Visual acuity improved by 1.8 lines in the Patching Group

75.6% (31) of the children in the Acupuncture Group experienced an improvement of at least two lines

66.7% (28) of the children in the Patching Group experienced an improvement of at least two lines

In the Acupuncture Group lazy eye was considered as resolved in 41.5% of cases

In the Patching Group lazy eye was considered as resolved in 16.7% of cases

In both groups, treatment was well tolerated, and no serious side effects were detected in either group.  A larger scale and longer term study will be required to further investigate these findings, but these results look promising for an alternative treatment option for lazy eye.

The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends that children have a routine eye examination by six months of age, again at the age of two or three, just before entering school, and regularly thereafter (or at anytime there are symptoms or concerns).  Early detection of eye problems is vital to ensure proper vision development.  Many conditions don’t have symptoms – including amblyopia as described above:  when lazy eye is associated with anisometropia, there are no outward signs like a crossed eye.  One eye is seeing well, so the child typically functions without symptoms.  For more information, talk to your eyecare professional or visit  HYPERLINK “” 

Written by Trevor Miranda

Dr. Miranda was raised in Simcoe, Ontario and graduated from the University of Waterloo with his Doctorate of Optometry in 1995. Following graduation, he moved to beautiful Vancouver Island, where he continues to serve the eye care needs of the Cowichan Valley. Trevor is also an active member of the Third World Eye Care Society and has participated with other professionals to improve the vision of the less fortunate. Dr. Miranda was named Optometrist of the Year by the British Columbia Association of Optometrists in March 2015. This prestigious honour recognized Dr. Miranda’s commitment to providing every patient with exceptional care while mentoring optometrists across Canada. Outside the office, you will find Trevor enjoying hockey, coaching soccer, involved with the South Cowichan Rotary Club, and spending time with his wife Cheryl and their three children. Trevor looks forward to continuing to care for the eyes of the Cowichan Valley and welcomes new patients without a referral. Dr. Miranda is available for appointments in our Duncan and Cobble Hill.
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