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Amblyopia: testing a new 3D movie treatment for lazy eye

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Amblyopia or ‘lazy eye’ is a common sight condition that develops in childhood, affecting an estimated one in 30 to one in 50 children in the UK.1 Although current treatments, such as the use of eye patches and eye drops, can be effective they need to be used for many years and children and parents often dislike them. Dr Annegret Dahlmann-Noor at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London is developing an innovative new treatment using customised 3D movies, which could offer a more child-friendly alternative. She is now carrying out the first clinical trial to find out if her new approach is safe and popular with families.

How are children’s lives affected now?

Amblyopia happens when a child’s brain ignores the images coming from one of their eyes – usually because they have a difference in glasses prescription between the two eyes, and/or they have a squint.

Children are usually diagnosed at around age four, when most schools take part in the national vision screening programme – but those with a squint are often diagnosed earlier. Left untreated, it can lead to long-term problems such as poor hand-eye coordination and a lack of 3D vision.

Wearing glasses is the first step in treatment, and in about two-thirds of children this allows normal vision to develop in the weaker eye. But if the problem persists, doctors will then prescribe eye patches or eyedrops that blur vision in the ‘good eye’ – to encourage the use of the child’s weaker eye.

“While the good news is that patching and blurring eye drops succeed in around seven out of 10 children, regular clinic visits over many years can impact on quality of life,” says Dr Dahlmann-Noor. “And parents and children often don’t like them so they may not be used as much as prescribed, which can reduce the chance of success.”

How could this research help?

“Our aim is to create a new treatment that is both fun and effective, improving the lives of children with amblyopia,” says Dr Dahlmann-Noor.

Their new approach involves watching customised movies for an hour each day on a hand-held 3D computer-game console. The image the good eye sees is blurred to match what the weaker eye sees, a type of treatment called balanced binocular viewing.

“In our initial tests, we were pleased to find that children’s vision improved – and parents and children liked its engaging nature,” says Dr Dahlmann-Noor.

Now the team are carrying out the first clinical trial of the new treatment. They will find out if children use it correctly, if they like it, and make sure it is safe.

“We will use the results to plan a larger clinical trial to find out if our innovative new approach has benefits over standard treatments,” says Dr Dahlmann-Noor. “If so, we hope it could be rapidly rolled out across the UK – giving families a brand new treatment choice.”


  1. NHS Choices website [accessed 23/08/2017]






Project Leader Dr Annegret H Dahlmann-Noor, Dr med PhD FRCOphth DipMedEd
Project Team Dr John A Greenwood, PhDDr Andi Skilton, BSc PhDMiss A Quartilho, MSc
Project Location Paediatric Opthalmology, NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthamology, London
Project Location Other Experimental Psychology, University College LondonPatient and Public Involvement Team, NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthamology, LondonResearch & Development, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, LondonUniversity of Auckland, New Zealand
Project duration 22 months
Date awarded 1 August 2017
Project start date 1 September 2018
Project end date 31 December 2021
Grant amount £177,932
Grant code GN2617


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