CHICAGO (AP) _ Eye drops are just as effective as eye patches for treating ``lazy eye'' and are less likely to be shunned by children, a study shows.
Lazy eye is a condition in which the brain favors one eye over the other. It is the most common cause of visual impairment in children, with symptoms including crossed eyes, farsightedness and nearsightedness.
Standard treatment has been eye patches worn over the unaffected eye to stimulate better vision in the ``lazy'' eye. The same thing happens with atropine drops, which temporarily blur vision in the unaffected eye.
But parents often have difficulty getting children to wear eye patches because of discomfort and teasing. The study found children and parents preferred atropine drops and were more likely to use them than patches.
``This may well become a new standard treatment for some forms of amblyopia,'' the medical name for lazy eye, said Dr. Paul Sieving, director of the National Eye Institute, which funded the study.
Lazy eye affects as many as 3 percent of U.S. children and usually develops in infancy or early childhood.
The study found the drops worked as well as patches in treating mild to moderate forms of the disorder in children ages 3 to 6. More severe forms, when vision is worse than 20/100, may require patches.
Atropine drops are used to treat eye inflammation and to dilate pupils before an eye exam. The drug is less commonly used for lazy eye.
The study appears in the March issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.
Researchers at several medical institutions compared the treatments in 419 children at 47 locations nationwide. For six months, about half received one daily drop of atropine; half wore patches for six or more hours daily.