Doctors Treat Vision Problem With Video Games

Video Games Are Just One Option

While many parents and doctors agree that handheld video games like the Nintendo DS can help improve an amblyopic person's vision, that improvement can happen only if video games are part of a larger regimen.

The length of time a person wears a patch varies, depending on the severity of the amblyopia, and whether or not a child plays video games and for how long are up to the discretion of the doctor and patient.

Isabelle, for example, plays with her DS for an hour and does other activities that stimulate her visually for the rest of the time she wears her patch. There are also computer programs designed specifically for people with amblyopia.

Video Games Can Help More Than Amblyopia

And since there are parents who object to their children playing video games, there are other things they can try as well.

"Go to the toy store and find activities there, like 'Where's Waldo?' or something else depending on the age of the child," says Maino. "If your child engages in a high-interest task, that's fine."

Video games may help other visual problems too. At least one study found that adults who played action video games such as "Call of Duty 2" showed an improved awareness of contrast.

While this study focused on people with otherwise good vision and no signs of amblyopia or other problems, it perhaps provides further evidence that video games can be good for the eyes if played in moderation.

"It makes sense, because the games are new and novel and are visually arousing," says Maino.

With 2 to 4 percent of children affected by amblyopia, doctors say it's a problem that needs to be addressed, and if video games are a way to improve a child's eyesight, then that's fine with them.

"Compliance is the key to success, and if handheld video games can improve compliance, it will be a wonderful help to this major public health issue in kids," says Kazlas.

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