EYE PROBLEMS: So you didn’t need the patch after all

Many of us have seen schoolchildren having to wear a patch over one eye to correct a visual problem such as amblyopia. It’s uncomfortable, and embarrassing, for the child, especially as it singles him or her out as being different.

So, if you’ve ever had to wear one of those wretched patches, or perhaps have a child who had to endure one, you’ll be delighted to hear that it was all probably unnecessary.

A new study has discovered that the eye patch is effective in only the very worst cases of visual impairment. But for the majority with mild visual problems, the treatment doesn’t seem to offer any benefit. And eye specialists who’ve wanted children aged 5 or younger to wear a patch are also in the wrong. The ‘catch ’em young’ approach makes no difference, the study has found.

The research team, from the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, tested 177 children, aged from 3 to 5 years, with mild-to-moderate vision problems. Half had the ‘full’ treatment – patch and glasses – and the rest were given just glasses, or nothing at all.

In all but the most severe cases, the patch did nothing more than glasses to correct the problem. Interestingly, those children who had neither glasses nor a patch fared just as well, but that, hopefully, will be another story one day.

(Source: British Medical Journal, 2003; 327: 1251-4).

* If you can’t wait for that tantalizing story, check out the WDDTY Good Sight Guide. Follow this link to order your copy: http://www.wddty.co.uk/shop/details.asp?product=13

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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