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Correcting Adult Lazy Eye with Vision Therapy

Image of a person's hands holding a controller in front of a video game screen.

For years, adults have been told that there's nothing that can be done about lazy eye. "Only children can be successfully treated" was the common wisdom, but thanks to recent research studies, we know that's just not true. No matter how long you've had lazy eye, your condition can be improved with vision therapy.

What Is Vision Therapy?

Vision therapy uses games, activities, prisms, filters, patches, lenses, balance boards, and other devices to enhance communication between your eyes and your brain. Although lazy eye, also known as amblyopia, affects your vision, it's actually a neurological, or brain, disorder. When you were a child, a congenital cataract, a crossed eye, or severe astigmatism, nearsightedness or farsightedness caused your brain to turn off your eye, resulting in blurry vision, visual impairment, poor depth perception, and other eye problems.

If you weren't treated as a child, or the treatment was ineffective, you may have experienced double vision, slow reading speed, reduced reading comprehension and the inability to see objects in 3D. Although it's possible to compensate for these symptoms, it's not unusual for adults with lazy eye to experience frequent headaches or difficulty seeing clearly when driving. Vision therapy not only helps you use your vision effectively, but also makes reading, driving, and other activities easier and more enjoyable. After successfully completing therapy, you may finally be able to understand what everyone's talking about when they rave about 3D movies.

How Can Vision Therapy Help Adults?

Your brain establishes many important connections during childhood that are needed for good vision. In the past, it was believed that these pathways were completely formed when children were about 8 or 9 and couldn't be changed. A 2005 study by the National Eye Institute found that children 13 to 17 could improve lazy eye symptoms with therapy. In fact, the brain was much more plastic than anyone had ever realized. The study had important implications for adults too. If teenagers could improve their eyesight, why not adults?

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley decided to test their theory that playing video games may improve vision in adults with lazy eye in a 2011 study published in PLOS Biology. Study participants played video games that involved shooting at targets or building objects. While playing both games, they wore patches over their good eyes.

After participants spent 40 hours playing the games, visual acuity increased by an astounding 30 percent. Participants who had anisometropic amblyopia, a condition that occurs when each eye has a very different prescription, noticed a very important improvement in their vision. After 40 hours of play, they experienced a 50 percent improvement in 3D depth perception.

What Happens During Vision Therapy?

The process starts with a comprehensive vision examination by a vision therapist, an optometrist who has received additional training in vision therapy. After examining your eyes and determining if you need a prescription for contacts or eyeglasses, your vision therapist will ask you to talk about your symptoms, the age you first noticed vision problems and the details of any treatments you may have had in the past to correct your lazy eye.

Based on your examination and your symptoms, one or more tests may be recommended, including tracking, focusing, eye teaming and visual processing tests. The results of these tests will help your vision therapist develop a treatment plan that will enhance your vision and help your eyes work together effectively. Everything you do during vision therapy, whether you're touching dots on a rotating screen, playing a target game, or copying images, is designed to improve your vision.

Periodic assessments will identify your progress and note areas that still must be improved. At the conclusion of vision therapy, many adults who have lazy eye notice a significant improvement in acuity, depth perception, binocular vision, hand-eye coordination and eye teaming.

Vision therapy can help you make the most of your vision. Contact us today to find out how we can help you finally correct your lazy eye.

Sources:

Optometrists Network: Successful Improvement of Eyesight with Therapy for Patients with Lazy Eye Proven Possible at Later Ages by Many New Scientific Studies

http://www.lazyeye.org/lazy-eye-amblyopia-age-treatment-adult.html

Berkeley News: Playing Video Games Helps Adults with Lazy Eye, 8/3/11

http://news.berkeley.edu/2011/08/31/video-games-help-adult-amblyopia/

Nature: A New Form of Rapid Binocular Plasticity in Adults with Amblyopia, 5/9/13

https://www.nature.com/articles/srep02638

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