Electronic glasses have been proven as effective as eye patches for lazy eye in children. Image: American Academy of OphthalmologyBetween two and three children out of every 100 suffer from amblyopia, a visual impairment characterized by a reduction in one eye’s vision, as it fails to work properly with the brain. There are two common treatments, patching and eye drops. Both treatments aim to diminish vision in the strong eye, forcing the child to use the eye with amblyopia. But for children, treatment can bring its own slew of problems.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, one in four children feel anxiety prior to taking eye drops for amblyopia. Close to 15% refuse to take eye drops all together.

“When you talk to adults who underwent childhood treatment for amblyopia, they will tell you that wearing the patch was the worst thing ever,” said Daniel Neely, a pediatric ophthalmology professor at Indiana Univ.

Recently, Neely led a study comparing a new digital treatment for amblyopia with current treatments. The new programmable electronic glasses, called Amblyz, worked just as well as patching treatments.

“With these electronic occlusion glasses, the child learns that the lens will be clear again in just a few seconds so they may be more cooperative with the treatment,” said Neely. “For parents who have struggled with drops and patching, this could be a great alternative.”

Looking like a chic pair of white sunglasses with an orange interior, the glasses are controlled by a preprogrammed microchip, which controls the lens over the child’s strong eye. The lenses are liquid crystal display, allowing them to turn opaque for specified time intervals.

In Neely’s study, 33 children, between the ages of 3 and 8, either wore an adhesive patch for 2 hrs daily, or the occlusion glasses for 4 hrs daily. For test subjects using Amblyz, the lens over the strong eye switched from clear to opaque every 30 sec. After three months, both groups showed the same amount of improvement in their lazy eyes. The children were able to read two more lines on a reading chart after treatment.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already approved Amblyz as a medical device. Pairs in the U.S. are available from eye care professionals for around $450.