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Acupuncture may help treat lazy eye

December 15, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Amblyopia, or lazy eye as it's most commonly called, is usually treated with patches or eye drops, which can have side effects. But a new study shows that a unique approach - using acupuncture - might be an option for those who don't want the side effects of drops.Needles and the eyes are usually a bad combination, but the study on children in China finds acupuncture can help the vision of kids with lazy eyes.

"Perhaps acupuncture could help with the muscles that are involved with the movement of the eye and help with the alignment," said Dr. Lawrence Taw, M.D., an assistant clinical professor at the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine.

He says certain points in the ears, hands and around the eye -- including one at the top of the eyebrow just above the pupil and one toward the inner edge of the eyebrow -- can be stimulated to improve visual health.

Researchers followed 88 children between the ages of 7 and 12 who suffered from lazy eye. Half were assigned to the conventional treatment of patching the good eye. The other half attended acupuncture sessions weekly.

By the end of the 25 weeks, seven out of 10 children in each group saw their sight improve from 20/40 to 20/25.

"I think that acupuncture is a viable option especially for kids who aren't compliant with patching because of school work or because of peer pressure or for various reasons," said Dr. Taw.

Needles can be quite scary especially around the eyes. In that case, Dr. Taw says acupressure might be easier for kids to handle.

"You can easily place your fingertips, your thumbs, or even your knuckles along these different points around the eye itself," said Dr. Taw.

He says more research needs to be done before acupuncture or acupressure should be recommended routinely for children. But the findings do offer hope for parents who are having a hard time getting their kids to comply with conventional treatments.


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