A common cause of decreased vision in children is amblyopia, also known as “lazy eye.” Often confused with strabismus, or the misalignment of the eyes, amblyopia refers to vision reduction in one eye due to the brain favoring the other eye. Any condition that affects normal eye function, including strabismus or problems with focus, can cause amblyopia. The longer one eye is suppressed, the greater the chance of permanent vision impairment.
Treatment for amblyopia in children frequently involves patching the good eye, forcing the use of the weaker eye. Disengaging the good eye does not, however, address the underlying cause of amblyopia: the loss of binocular function.
A promising new treatment option that helps the eyes work together has shown measurable improvement in participants’ binocular perception, visual acuity and depth perception in early studies. Known as binocular game therapy, the treatment involves a game played on an iPad. The player moves or rotates falling blocks on the screen to build rows of solid lines. By wearing special glasses during play, higher contrast images are presented to the amblyopic eye, while the normal eye sees lower contrast. The effect helps the player combine visual information from both eyes.
“Binocular game therapy is the biggest breakthrough we’ve had in the treatment of amblyopia in probably 50 years,” says Hee-Jung Park, MD, MPH, pediatric ophthalmologist.
Dr. Park is a participating physician in the Pediatric Eye Disease Investigator Group overseeing a new clinical trial to compare the effectiveness of game therapy versus eye-patching treatment. Funded by the National Eye Institute, the study will include more than 500 children across North America and Europe.
After a qualifying eye exam, study participants ages 5 to 16 years will be randomly assigned to binocular game therapy or eye patching. Vision and eye alignment will be checked throughout the study. All participants who receive the eye patching treatment during the 16 week study will be given the opportunity to try game therapy at no cost. Recruiting for the study is active now, concluding September 2017.
Complete clinical trial information for the Study of Binocular Computer Activities for Treatment of Amblyopia is available here. Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle is now a study site and provides qualifying eye exams for children by Dr. Park, performed in Seattle and Issaquah. To find out more about the clinical trial at Virginia Mason, please contact the clinical research coordinator at (206) 342-6598.