There is a lot of discussion lately about amblyopia (AKA lazy eye), largely due to the recent news reports of adaptations of Tetris and other video games as treatments for amblyopia. As I described in my previous post, these new binocular techniques are definitely better than old-school patching. However, in there essence, these techniques are not new. In fact, optometrists have known for a long time that treating two eyes is better than one. That is the basis of what we do in the vision therapy room to help patients with amblyopia – play games with both eyes at the same time.
I’m very happy to share with you an infographic on amblyopia treatment from the VisionHelp blog.
You can read the full story behind the origin of this excellent infographic here. I think it is fantastic!
If you and your child are struggling with patching – you don’t have to be! Not only is binocular therapy more effective than patching – it is way more fun! If you have questions about amblyopia, vision’s therapy, or children’s vision in general, do not hesitate to give us at call at 813-792-0637 or email me at Doc@BrightEyesTampa.com.
And please – share, pin, tweet or photocopy this infographic!
A new study, about amblyopia, has been published and it is really getting attention. From CBS news to Huffington Post to CNET, everyone is covering it, probably because they get to use the word “Tetris” in the title. Tetris, of course, is the hugely addictive block-stack game that, at least in my memory, was the first hand-held videogame blockbuster.
Amblyopia, known to many people as “lazy eye” is a visual adaptation to conditions that interfere with visual development. On a simple level, it means that even with the best glasses or contact lenses, the eye does not see and function as well as expected. It is not due to disease or injury, but rather a situation where the brain doesn’t communicate well with one eye and can’t use the eyes as a team.
Think of the brain being someone on the internet, and one eye is a friend with 14.4K dial up and the other has a 4G smart phone. Yes, you can communicate with both eyes, but you are going to prefer the 4G because it is faster and can do more things. Trying to use both eyes simultaneously as a team is hard because one is lagging behind and missing information.
I am extremely glad to see this study and I do have some thoughts on it: First, do not get too excited about the Tetris part. While I really have no doubt that Tetris and similar games stimulate visual planning and cognitive development, I suspect that the main benefit of using Tetris in this study is that it is very engaging, requires attention to visual detail, and requires the player to make decisions based on visual information. Basically this is true for most video games (and real world games, for that matter). So Tetris is not the magic here.
What IS a big deal about this study is the goggles – they required the eyes to work together to play the game. If you play, you can’t just shut off the amblyopic eye, or you’ll lose because you won’t see the falling blocks. And that isn’t motivating or good therapy. It isn’t patching or covering the good eye because you won’t see the blocks on the bottom. You still won’t win. This is like conventional patching. You can stimulate the amblyopic eye (upgrading the modem), but that alone only helps somewhat.
What this study shows is that only when both eyes can see and are given the opportunity to work together to achieve a common visual goal is there significant improvement in the amblyopic eye. In my internet analogy, this is not only giving the amblyopic eye a 4G smartphone but making sure it is net savvy. Both eyes are now friends on Facebook and Twitter so they can work together in real time to solve visual-spatial problems efficiently. (Just to be clear: the eyes do not use Facebook, and they do not communicate directly – all that happens in the brain).
So why is this so exciting? Because this is exactly what we do in vision therapy every day. We “upgrade” the eyes to work well individually (4G) but also “network” them to work together (Facebook, Twitter). We don’t use Tetris, but we do use paper & pens, balls, special glasses, computer programs, 3D art, optical illusions and lots of other fun tools to make it fun and productive.
It is great to see more research on this on adults with amblyopia. For too many years, patients have been told that after early childhood there is no hope of improving the vision in the amblyopic eye. It simply is not true. I did a blog post awhile back on the science behind amblyopia. You can see that here. For a great look at binocular treatment of amblyopia, see this recent post on the VisionHelp blog.
The American Optometric Association recently held a School Readiness Summit: Focus on Vision in which doctors, nurses, educators and advocates for children’s health gathered to examine learning-related vision issues that are keeping children from achieving in the classroom. This summit was created to address the concerns that our current system is flawed and a policy shift is needed. The problem is that currently, the U.S. educational system and some health care providers rely heavily on vision screenings to discover the kids that need comprehensive exams. These screenings do catch some types of vision problems but they can miss about 75% of those children that have learning-related vision problems. Detecting these vision problems is very important as “studies show that much of what children learn comes though vision, and undetected and untreated eye and vision disorders in children, such as amblyopia and strabismus, can result in vision loss, additional costly treatments, delayed reading and poorer outcomes in school.”
The take-home statement that the summit produced is that comprehensive eye exams must serve as the foundation to determine school readiness in school-aged children. Another important point established at this meeting is the establishment of the link between healthy vision and classroom learning.
This historic summit is an important step in ensuring that children receive the proper detection and treatment of vision problems before they become detrimental to their learning. Here at Bright Eyes Family Vision Care, we are excited to see these changes being made, since it has been our goal from the beginning to not only catch vision problems at an early stage, evidenced by the InfantSEE program that we offer that provides free eye exams to infants between the age of 6 months and 1 year of age, but to also treat certain types of problems through our extensive one-on-one vision therapy program.
If you have any questions regarding the InfantSEE program, vision therapy program, or would like to schedule a comprehensive eye exam for your child before they start school, give our office a call or come in to schedule.