JAMA Logo Amblyopia also known as lazy eye may often be the result of differences in the degree of nearsightedness or farsightedness between the two eyes. Such refractive errors can be supposedly corrected with the help of glasses or contact lenses among kids aged 3 to 7 years. However, only 30 percent of those aged 7 to 12 years are seemingly capable of responding to visual correction alone. A recent study asserts that older children diagnosed with lazy eye can be treated with the help of acupuncture.

Investigators compared acupuncture to patching in a randomized controlled trial that included 88 kids. It was mentioned that acupuncture has also been used to treat dry eye and myopia. A total of 43 children were subjected to the acupuncture group and received five treatments per week targeting five acupoints, or needle insertion sites. The other 45 received good eye patched for two hours a day and were instructed to do at least one hour of near-vision activities with the lazy eye, like reading or typing. The results of the study were noted after 15 weeks of the treatment.

Experts share, “Although the treatment effect of acupuncture appears promising, the mechanism underlying its success as a treatment for amblyopia remains unclear,” the authors write. Targeting vision-related acupoints may change the activity of the visual cortex, the part of the brain that receives data from the eyes. It may also increase blood flow to the eye and surrounding structures as well as stimulate the generation of compounds that support the growth of retinal nerves. The findings from this report indicate that the treatment effect of acupuncture for amblyopia is equivalent to the treatment effect of patching for amblyopia. However, only patients with anisometropic amblyopia were involved in our study and the follow-up period was relatively short. Moreover, acupuncture itself is a very complicated system of therapy. Differences exist among acupuncturists, and there are divergent manipulation modes, stimulation parameters, treatment styles and subjective sensations evoked by acupuncture stimulation. Because of the good results obtained in our study, the acupoints that we used could be considered for use in clinical practice.”

Jianhao Zhao, M.D., of Joint Shantou International Eye Center of Shantou University and Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shantou, China, and colleagues, claim that improvement in visual acuity was by about 1.8 lines among those whose eyes were patched. On the other hand, those subjected to acupuncture reported enhancement in visual acuity by approximately 2.3 lines. 28 of those in the patching group forming 66.7 percent and 31 in the acupuncture group representing 75.6 percent were registered with better correction of two or more lines. Lazy eye was probably resolved in 16.7 percent of patched eyes and 41.5 percent of eyes in the acupuncture group. It was mentioned that both treatments were well tolerated and no problems complying with either therapy or serious adverse effects appeared.

The study is published in the December issue of Archives of Ophthalmology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.