This 'digital patch' is the first new effective treatment for 'lazy eye' in half a century. Lazy eye, also called amblyopia, remains the most common cause of visual impairment in children.

Amblyopia is poor vision in an eye that did not develop normally during early childhood. The child needs to receive treatment by the age of eight or so while their eyes and brain are still developing or he or she could become blind in the weaker eye.

In comparison, the new electronic glasses combine vision correction and occlusion. The lenses can be filled to fit a child's vision prescription. Because the lenses are liquid crystal display (LCD), they can also be programmed to turn opaque.

In a randomised clinical study, the researchers at the Glick Eye Institute at Indiana University tested the effectiveness of occlusion glasses compared to patching.

They recruited 33 children with lazy eye between age three and eight who wore spectacles to correct their vision. One group wore an adhesive patch for two hours daily.

The other wore Amblyz occlusion glasses for four hours daily. In the study, the lens over the eye with better vision switched from clear to opaque every 30 seconds. After three months, both groups of children showed the same amount of improvement in the lazy eye, gaining two lines on a reading chart.

"With these electronic occlusion glasses, the child learns that the lens will be clear again in just a few seconds so they may be more cooperative with the treatment," said Daniel Neely, pediatric ophthalmology professor at Indiana University.

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