A new study has suggested that acupuncture could potentially become an alternative to patching for treating amblyopia (lazy eye) in some older children.
About one-third to one-half of the amblyopia cases are caused by differences in the degree of nearsightedness or farsightedness between the two eyes, a condition known as anisometropia.
Correcting these refractive errors with glasses or contact lenses has been shown to be effective in children age 3 to 7 years, but among older children age 7 to 12, only 30 percent respond to visual correction alone.
Adding occlusion therapy-in which one eye is patched-increases this response rate to two-thirds, but some patients may not comply and those who do may experience emotional problems or reverse amblyopia, the authors note.
Jianhao Zhao of Joint Shantou International Eye Center of Shantou University and Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shantou, China, and colleagues compared acupuncture-which has also been used to treat dry eye and myopia-to patching in a randomized controlled trial involving 88 children.
Of these children, 43 were randomly assigned to the acupuncture group and received five treatments per week targeting five acupoints, or needle insertion sites. The remaining 45 children had their good eye patched for two hours a day and were instructed to do at least one hour of near-vision activities with the lazy eye, such as reading or typing.
After 15 weeks, visual acuity improved by about 1.8 lines in those whose eyes were patched and 2.3 lines in those who had acupuncture. An improvement of two lines or more occurred in 28 of those in the patching group and 31 of those in the acupuncture group.
Lazy eye was considered resolved in 16.7 percent of patched eyes and 41.5 percent of eyes in the acupuncture group.
The findings appeared in the December issue of Archives of Ophthalmology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.