The basis of treatment for amblyopia (poor vision due to abnormal visual experience early in life) for 250 years has been patching of the unaffected eye for extended times to ensure a period of use of the affected eye. Over the last decade randomised controlled treatment trials have provided some evidence on how to tailor amblyopia therapy more precisely to achieve the best visual outcome with the least negative impact on the patient and the family. This review highlights the expansion of knowledge regarding treatment for amblyopia and aims to provide optometrists with a summary of research evidence to enable them to better treat amblyopia.
Treatment for amblyopia is effective, as it reduces overall prevalence and severity of visual loss in this population. Correction of refractive error alone significantly improves visual acuity, sometimes to the point where further amblyopia treatment is not required. Atropine penalisation and patch occlusion are effective in treating amblyopia. Lesser amounts of occlusion or penalisation have been found to be just as effective as greater amounts. Recent evidence has highlighted that occlusion or penalisation in amblyopia treatment can create negative changes in behaviour in children and impact on family life. These complications should be considered when prescribing treatment because they can negatively affect compliance. Studies investigating the maximum age at which treatment of amblyopia can still be effective and the importance of near activities during occlusion are ongoing.