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Using Occluder Contact Lenses for Treating Amblyopia

Amblyopia is the most common case of visual impairment in children and young adults. Its treatment is most successful with early instigation. The treatment can be quite frustrating for patients, parents and eye care providers as we all struggle for submissive eye-patching. However, there is a safe and effective treatment for patch-tolerance or for those patients who fail the usual treatment of amblyopia.

What is amblyopia and how do occluder contact lenses correct the problem?

Amblyopia otherwise known as "lazy eye" is a disorder of the visual system that is characterized by poor or vague vision in an eye that is physically normal. It has been estimated that around 2-4% of the population are suffering from this deficiency. Its symptoms include the following:

  • Eye strain
  • Squinting
  • Headaches
  • Loss of vision in one eye

As we all know, it is never that simple. It is very important to treat amblyopia as soon as possible. If not corrected by the age of 9, it is possible that the brain will most likely start to ignore the vision acquired by the impaired eye and once the brain starts to ignore it, there is no possible way that it can be restored.

For many different reasons, children do not tolerate the usual amblyopia treatment. They do not like wearing glasses nor will they put up with ocular patching. Children, especially the young ones often do not understand the treatment and why it is needed. This is where contact lenses come into play. Occluder contact lenses are the standard care for people suffering this deficiency. These lenses are well suited for patients who are uncomfortable with patching whether it is for physical, social or therapeutic reasons.

There are 3 important areas when it comes to using occluder contact lenses to help treat amblyopia:

  1. Anisometropia - it is one of the most common cases of amblyopia
    • spectacle correction is normally the starting point for this condition, but the difference of the required correction between the eyes is significant that is why contact lenses are the preferred choice
    • using occluder contact lenses will minimize prismatic effects during eye movement, some recommended manufacturers of these contact lenses are: Alternative Vision Solutions, Gelflex, Specialeyes and Cooper Vision Hydrasoft
  2. Unilateral Aphakia - or congenital cataracts, the treatment and supervision comes at a very early age
    • occluder contact lenses are the standard care for this kind of optical correction
  3. Unilateral Aphakic Fitting - it is vital not to delay the lens fitting of an aphakic infant because this will correct the large image inequality between the eyes

Studies have shown that there are 3 sizes of occluder contact lenses most commonly used: BC 8.3, 14.0 mm (for children under 1 year old), BC 8.5, 14.0 mm (generally used for most patients) and BC 8.7, 14.0 mm.

The use of occluder contact lenses does not do any skin reaction due to the adhesive, unlike conventional amblyopic patching. Your eye doctor's prescription is a pre-requisite when you decide to forego and use this type of lenses. However, a problem could arise if the child learned to peek out from behind the lens by rubbing the eye with the occluder lens to de-center the lens.

Reasons for trying occluder contact lenses:

  • Patching failure
  • Skin irritation from adhesives
  • Social reasons
  • Invisible to the onlooker
  • Cheaper than ocular patching

Why occluder contact lenses are more successful than conventional patching?

  • Some children remove the patches repeatedly that patching becomes impossible.
  • Others suffer from irritations because of the adhesive found in the patches.
  • School-aged children may get socially conscious can be offered better alternatives.
  • Successful visual improvement from occluder contact lens wearers in the estimated time of 4 months.
  • No cases of ocular infection from patients using occluder contact lenses have been reported.

What contact lenses should you buy for treating amblyopia?

Occluder contact lenses are not available off the shelf. Instead, you need to pay a visit to your eye doctor. He/she will either have ready made set of prosthetic contact lenses that you can use or would place an order with any of the leading contact lens manufacturers.


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