It's certainly rare to hear the terms "medical treatment" and "video game" in the same sentence, but a team of researchers at McGill University has found what sounds like the perfect combination to treat amblyopia, commonly known as "lazy eye." In a 2013 study, 18 adults with amblyopia were asked to play the popular video game Tetris, which involves aligning an assortment of falling blocks to make rows. Half of the study participants wore special goggles, so that they could see only the falling blocks with one eye, and the blocks on the ground with the other. The other group played the game with their strong eye covered. The results were promising, with the researchers concluding that using both eyes to play the game was more helpful than "patching" -- a common treatment for lazy eye, in which the stronger eye is covered in order to make the weak eye work harder and regain strength. The team said the results were particularly promising for adults, who don't benefit from patching as much as children do, although similar studies have also tried the video game approach with young people.
A closer look at "lazy eye":
- Amblyopia affects about one in 50 children and has a number of causes, such as irregularly shaped or poorly aligned eyes, one eye being nearsighted or farsighted, or other difficulties in focusing.
- Without treatment, amblyopia can lead to loss of vision in the weak eye.
- Because amblyopia can be difficult to detect, vision testing is recommended for children around the age of four or five. In some cases, wearing glasses is sufficient to treat the condition.