According to a study, acupuncture has the potential for becoming an alternative choice to patching for the treatment of lazy eye (amblyopia) in certain older children. Approximately 0.3% to 5% of people around the world have lazy eye. Approximately a third to a half of the cases of lazy eye are a result of differences in the degree of farsightedness or nearsightedness between the 2 eyes, a condition called anisometropia. Using contact lenses or glasses to correct these refractive errors is effective in 3 to 7 year old children, but in 7 to 12 old children, only 30% improve with visual correction alone.
The addition of occlusion therapy, or patching 1 eye, increases the response rate to 2 thirds, but not all individuals comply and people who do could experience reverse amblyopia or emotional problems. Acupuncture, which has been made use of for treatment of myopia and dry eye, was compared to patching in a study which involved 88 children.
43 of them were randomly assigned to an acupuncture group, receiving 5 treatments a week targeting 5 acupoints. The other 45 children patched their good eye for 2 hours each day and performed at least 1 hour of near-vision activity like typing or reading with the lazy eye.
There was an improvement in visual acuity by about 1.8 lines after 15 weeks in individuals with patched eyes and 2.3 lines in individuals who received acupuncture. There was an improvement of 2 lines or more in 66.7 % of the patching group and 75.6% those who received acupuncture. Lazy eye was considered resolved in 41.5% of eyes in the acupuncture group and 16.7% of patched eyes.
The mechanism underlying the success of acupuncture as a treatment for lazy eye remains unclear even though the effects of the treatment appear promising. The visual cortex activity, the area of the brain which receives data from the eyes, may be changed by targeting vision-related acupoints. Blood flow may also be increased to the eye and it’s surrounding structures as well as stimulation of the generation of compounds which support retinal nerve growth.
The study results indicate that acupuncture for lazy eye treatment is equivalent to patching for lazy eye treatment.