John Frederick, M.D.
FDA approves a pain-free, no-hassle, and no-whining treatment for amblyopia, known as lazy eye, that improves the likelihood that children will comply with treatment.
Amblyopia is loss of vision in one or both eyes due to abnormal visual development during childhood. Kids can have amblyopia without any outward signs. It’s crucial to screen kids between two and three years of age to detect amblyopia when it’s easiest to treat. Loss of vision due to amblyopia can often be restored in most patients up to nine or 10 years of age. It becomes challenging to regain vision as children get older. If not treated, permanent visual loss, poor depth perception, progressive strabismus and double vision may result.
Lazy eye treatment has traditionally been done by patching the stronger eye and can be used with or without blurring (atropine) eye drops. These treatments are often prescribed with corrective glasses. The treatments work together by limiting the use of the stronger eye, forcing children to use and strengthen their weaker eye. Compliance with patching, typically requiring several hours a day, can be hard for kids and parents, and though rare, atropine eye drops can have side effects.
The FDA recently approved, Luminopia, the first digital therapy for treating amblyopia in children ages four to seven. Kids watch TV shows using a virtual reality headset one hour a day, six days a week. Over 700 hours of popular shows are available from PBS, Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, etc., making compliance with treatment easy. The software modifies images into treatment by rebalancing input to the brain and is used as an alternative to eye patching. The therapy encourages the use of the weaker eye while also prodding patients’ brains to combine input from both eyes. While not widely covered by insurance, coverage is verified before the headset is prescribed. Typically, the “rental” charge is $150/month. The headset is shipped to the patient and must be returned when treatment is completed.
If patients are compliant, existing treatments for amblyopia are very effective, and the cost of patches and atropine drops are generally more affordable. The real potential of this digital treatment is offering a solution that kids won’t hate, thus improving compliance with treatment.
BIO: Dr. Frederick, with Eye Surgeons Associates, is board-certified with a fellowship in Pediatric Ophthalmology. Dr. Frederick practices at ESA’s Bettendorf, Iowa and Rock Island, Illinois clinics. For more information, visit: esaeyecare.com.
ESA has no financial interest in Luminopia, and receives no compensation for prescribing the device. The material contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider.