Amblyopia is a childhood problem that happens when one eye is weaker than the other. The brain chooses to take in images only from the stronger eye. If the weak eye doesn't have to work, it isn't able to develop good vision. This leads to poor vision in the weaker eye.
For amblyopia to be treated, your child must use the weak eye. This will force the eye to get stronger. Your doctor may block the strong eye with an eye patch. Or they may blur vision in the strong eye with eyedrops or glasses. Treatment may last for a few weeks or months.
How you can help your child wear an eye patch for amblyopia
By giving support and reassurance, you can help your child comply with the patching treatment.
- Reassure your child.
Amblyopia is commonly called "lazy eye." Tell your child that despite the nickname, an eye with amblyopia is not actually lazy and that your child has not done anything wrong. A child with amblyopia may not even know that they are using only one eye.
- Give comfort and support.
Other children might make fun of a child who has to wear a patch over one eye. Comfort your child. And remind your child why it is important to keep the patch on.
- Schedule the times when your child will wear the patch.
It may be possible to wear the patch only at home. Then your child can avoid any hurtful comments or teasing that may happen because of the patch.
- Reward your child.
Consider giving rewards when your child wears the patch without complaints or difficulties. You can use a phone app or a calendar to show your child's progress toward the reward.
- Encourage support from others.
Offer suggestions to family, friends, and classmates about ways they can help make the treatment successful.
Try to have some fun
Here are some things you can do to make the times your child is wearing the patch more fun and to help make the treatment more effective.
- Help your child adjust to wearing the patch.
Spend time with your child just after the patch is put on. It takes a short time—about 10 or 15 minutes—for the brain to adjust to having the dominant eye covered. Doing something fun during this time can make the transition easier.
- Find activities to make the affected eye work harder.
Give your child as much one-on-one attention as possible while they are wearing the patch. Your child will enjoy the time you spend together, and this will help take their mind off the patch. Try to find games and activities that capture your child's attention and make the affected eye work harder.
- Give your child some control in a fun way.
If your child is wearing adhesive-type patches, let your child decorate them. Decorating a patch can make your child feel better about wearing it, especially when they find that family, friends, and classmates like the decorations too. Be careful not to put any decorations on the side of the patch that faces the eye.
Make the weak eye work
Patching treatment for amblyopia will be more effective if your child's weak eye has to work harder while the normal eye is patched. Games and activities that require visual acuity and eye-hand coordination work well.
- Start with simple activities.
At first, your child's coordination may not be good because the brain is still learning how to use the weaker eye. Easy activities will help build your child's confidence.
- Use arts and crafts.
Coloring books, paint books, and crafts such as cutting and pasting are all fun activities that require good eye-hand coordination.
- Move on to active games.
Tossing beanbags or small balls (such as ping-pong balls) into buckets or other containers can be a fun and challenging activity. Keep in mind that with one eye patched, your child's depth perception will be reduced, and your child may have some difficulty with toss games.
- Spend time reading and looking at books with your child.
Picture books and reading require close visual attention. Even if your child is not reading yet, looking at the pictures in children's books is a good way to make the weak eye work during patching. Have your child look at the details of the pictures. If your child is learning to read, help them work through the text.
Current as of: October 12, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine