A recent study came out yesterday that has a lot of people talking. Acupuncture may be as effective in treating amblyopia (lazy eye) as patching.
From the CNN story Needles trump patches in treating kids' eye problem:
In the randomized trial, researchers compared the effectiveness of two hours of daily patching therapy with acupuncture for treating lazy eye in 88 children aged 7 to 12. All children had already worn glasses for at least 16 weeks. 43 of the children were randomly assigned to the acupuncture treatment group, receiving five treatments per week that targeted five needle insertion sites. 45 children in the patch group had their stronger eye patched for two hours per day and were instructed to do activities such as reading and typing, which helps to strengthen near vision in the weaker eye.
What do I think about this? I don't know. I'm not highly educated in acupuncture. I do think it has it's place. I do know that patching alone is not as effective as vision therapy because patching treats one eye and not both. (See this recent post by Dr. Len Press for additional info). So it is not compelling that acupuncture is better than patching.
I also know that amblyopia is much more than a visual acuity problem. It is a problem of many visual skills including focusing and perception. So much more extensive research needs to be done. But this is a good sign that ophthalmologists and visual scientists are looking into complex areas of vision and visual treatment.
Before anyone undertakes acupuncture for amblyopia, I do recommend a comprehensive visual and eye health evaluation by an optometrist who specializes in children's vision. If you need to find one, COVD is a great place to start.
So that is my opinion. What do you think about acupuncture for amblyopia?
Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.
Nice points, Dr. Nate. I'm a bit surprised, in a pleasant way, that this has received so much press. Particularly interesting that this study was published in Archives of Ophthalmology. The only ophthalmic practitioner that I know who is an authority on acupuncture, and is a licensed acupuncturist, is Dr. Marc Grossman. See:
Might be interesting to get Marc's take on this article.
I think it's very interesting, though I wish I had access to the full article. From what I could tell, the difference in outcomes was not terribly significant, and 5 acupuncture sessions per weeks seems like a lot, not to mention, terribly expensive. But it's nice to see research on other ways of stimulating the brain to help with amblyopia. As you say, it's not just a visual acuity issue, it's neurological as well.
Hi Len, I'm familiar with Dr. Grossman, but I didn't know he was a licensed in acupuncturist. I'll contact him…
Hi Dr. Nate. I would be very interested to hear what Dr. Grossman has to say. Please update us, if possible.
I am hopeful and considering trying for my 6 year old. We’ve been patching since she was 5 days old and haven’t had success with patching. She’s had her share of eye issues, but what could it hurt. Acupuncture has no side effects. I’m seriously considering it.
Left eye – congential cataract, removed at age 3.5 no implant, detached retina age 4.5, also has cyst in eye that is being watched. vision in left eye is 20/200 with correction.