WHAT DOES EYE PATCHING TREAT AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Eye patching treats amblyopia, a condition in which the two eyes don’t work together, resulting in one eye becoming weak or lazy. Over time, this weakness may become permanent, and vision in the weak eye may become so impaired that the eye may become blind. Eye patching is the first line of treatment for amblyopia, and must be done as early as possible for best results. As your child gets older and begins to explore the world and eventually develops a career, low vision or blindness in the weak eye may limit your child’s options.
EYE PATCHING THERAPY
Eye patching works by covering the good, or stronger eye in order to force the weaker, amblyopic eye to work, forcing the weak eye to exercise. Eye patching therapy is highly individualized, and your child’s eye doctor will make specific recommendations for how often and how long your child needs to patch. During this period, you should expect to have frequent eye examinations with your child’s eye specialist to monitor progress. As your child’s eye becomes stronger, the patching requirements may change. Some children may only need to patch for a few hours per day or for only a few weeks. Other children may need to patch for extended periods of time everyday or for many years. Your child’s eye doctor may also recommend specific visual acuity exercises or activities to work on in conjunction with eye patching.
MAKE EYE PATCHING EASIER FOR YOUR CHILD
Eye patching can be traumatic, particularly if your child must patch while also attending school or social activities. Your child may object because it will make the child stand out from others as being different. Patching may also be difficult, especially at the start, because your child’s vision will be diminished since they will be covering the good eye and relying solely on the weaker eye. Depending on how weak the amblyopic eye is, your child may appear tired in the first week or two of patching, and may want to sleep more than usual. These are perfectly normal reactions to patching. There are a number of steps you can take to make patching easier for your child:
Talk about it — Talk to your child about why patching is important and reinforce that patching isn’t forever. Remind your child that the more closely he or she follows the patching routine, the sooner the patching will be done. Express understanding when your child becomes frustrated or upset with patching, and provide plenty of hugs and love during this difficult period.
Use fun patches — There are several types and brands of patches available. Your child’s eye doctor will recommend a type of patch that will be ideal for your child’s needs. Patching aids also come in a variety of fun patterns. Allow your child to choose patches that appeal to the child — perhaps solid pink, or yellow with a dump truck pattern, or black with flames.
Set and follow rules — Most children don’t enjoy patching, and may find it difficult. Set a timer or teach your child to read a clock so he or she knows when the patch may come off. Some children find it helpful to have a rewards chart with patching. After so many days of wearing the patch according to the doctor’s directions, reward the child with a new book, a movie, or a special dinner. Make a chart with a square for each day, and at the end of the day, allow your child to mark a square or adhere that day’s patch to the chart. For some children, particularly younger kids, a rule that only parents may touch the patch may be helpful as this may help the child to keep the patch on and in place.
Explain patching to others — Explaining the importance of eye patching to your child’s teachers or caregivers, friends, and family will help everyone to be supportive and understanding. It may also help to point out that everyone has differences. While your child must wear a patch, perhaps little Johnny has a cast for a broken arm, or Suzie may have braces to straighten her teeth. Lisa has freckles. Jacob is tall and Sean is short. Pointing out that we are all unique helps children to understand one another.
Make games out of patching — Find unique uses for your child’s used patches. Place the used patch on a piece of blank paper and encourage your child to draw a picture around it, perhaps turning the patch into a picture of a car or an animal. Fold each used patch into thirds along the length, and make them into loops, adding a new patch loop everyday to make a chain.
Plan a “no more patching” party — When your child’s eye doctor gives the ok to be done patching, consider having a “no more patching” party. It could be a simple family dinner with a special dessert, or something more elaborate with friends. Celebrate that your child is finished with patching!
If your child has not yet had a comprehensive eye examination, or if you suspect that your child may have a vision or eye problem, call Silverstein Eye Centers today at at 816-358-3600 to schedule an appointment.