iPad beats iPatch

An iPad game is more successful than a patch at treating amblyopia in children

10 Nov 2016 by Olivia Wannan

Children’s insatiable love of tablet games has been put to great use by US researchers in treating amblyopia by US researchers.

The action-adventure iPad game requires children to wear special spectacles that regulate the elements of the game seen by each eye. High-contrast elements are seen by the amblyopic eye while low-contrast elements are seen by the other eye, and high-contrast background elements are shown to both eyes.

To successfully play the game, the child must see all these elements. In an early-stage study of 28 children, half were given the iPad game and asked to play for one hour a day, five days a week for a fortnight.

The remaining 14 children were offered the standard patching treatment, in the study published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

After two weeks, the children who had played the game were found to have the best-corrected visual acuity improvements – double that of the children in the patching group.

This is despite the children spending just 10 hours playing the game in comparison to the children who wore the patch for 28 hours over the same period, Retina Foundation of the Southwest researcher, Dr Krista Kelly highlighted.

She added: “We show that, in just two weeks, visual acuity gain with binocular treatment was half that found with six months of patching, suggesting that binocular treatment may yield faster gains than patching.

“Whether long-term binocular treatment is as effective in remediating amblyopia as patching remains to be investigated.”

Dr Kelly explained that it is hoped that binocular treatments like the game will ultimately have better success than patching at restoring visual acuity and teaching the eyes to work together.

She told OT that the children in the study genuinely enjoyed the game and were excited about beating the levels.

“Unfortunately we were only able to provide one game, and most children had finished its 42 levels within the four-week study treatment period. Providing a variety of games could help with long-term treatment,” she noted.

She explained that the development of more games were also critical to evaluating the therapy’s potential.

“It is also important to investigate how contrast changes should be manipulated to achieve maximum acuity improvements. Lastly, options for younger children who cannot play the games must be explored, such as animated movies or television shows. These methods are currently being investigated,” Dr Kelly outlined.

While the option was not yet available as a treatment, interested practitioners and patients may want to keep the potential therapy in mind.

“It is our hope that binocular interventions that rebalance contrast will eventually become available as an additional option for amblyopia treatment,” Dr Kelly emphasised.

Image credit: Brad Flickinger

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