HealthDay News — According to two new studies published in JAMA Ophthalmology, playing video games on an iPad have reached seemingly contradictory answers in determining whether or not it works better in improving vision in children with amblyopia than with the standard eye patching.

In the first study, 385 children between 5 and 13 years of age were randomly assigned to a gaming group or an eye patching group. Improvement in visual acuity was measured by gains on a standard eye chart, with follow-ups at 4, 8, 12 and 16 weeks. 

Both groups showed small improvements over the period, especially younger children who had not been treated for amblyopia before. Overall, 2 hours a day of patching worked slightly better than an hour a day of game play.

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In the second study, 28 children from ages 4 to 10 were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups. For 2 weeks, children in 1 group played computer games an hour a day, 5 days a week. Those in the other group wore patches 2 hours a day for 2 weeks. 

After that, all the children played games for 14 days. After the first 2 weeks, children in the gaming group had improved 1.5 lines on the eye chart, more than double the improvement among children who wore patches. At 4 weeks, there was no difference between the 2 groups.

“We show that in just 2 weeks, visual acuity gain with binocular treatment was half that found with 6 months of patching, suggesting that binocular treatment may yield faster gains than patching,” authors of the second study write. “Whether long-term binocular treatment is as effective in remediating amblyopia as patching remains to be investigated.”


Holmes JM, et al. “Effect of a Binocular iPad Game vs Part-time Patching in Children Aged 5 to 12 Years With Amblyopia: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” JAMA Ophthalmol. 2016. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2016.4262. [Epub ahead of print]

Dahlmann-Noor A. “Binocular Treatment of Amblyopia in Children: Teething Problems on the Path to Clinical Practice.” JAMA Ophthalmol. 2016. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2016.3657. [Epub ahead of print]

Kelly KR. “Binocular iPad Game vs Patching for Treatment of Amblyopia in Children: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” JAMA Ophthalmol. 2016. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2016.4224. [Epub ahead of print]

Sloper J. “New Treatments for Amblyopia—To Patch or Play?” JAMA Ophthalmol. 2016. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2016.4296. [Epub ahead of print]

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