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Needles trump patches in treating kids' eye problem
December 13th, 2010
04:12 PM ET

Needles trump patches in treating kids' eye problem

Acupuncture is helping to improve vision in children with lazy eye, according to a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology.

In the randomized trial, researchers compared the effectiveness of two hours of daily patching therapy with acupuncture for treating lazy eye in 88 children aged 7 to 12. All children had already worn glasses for at least 16 weeks. 43 of the children were randomly assigned to the acupuncture treatment group, receiving five treatments per week that targeted five needle insertion sites. 45 children in the patch group had their stronger eye patched for two hours per day and were instructed to do activities such as reading and typing, which helps to strengthen near vision in the weaker eye.

After 15 weeks of both therapies, vision clarity improved in more than 66 percent of the patch group and more than 75 percent of the acupuncture group. Lazy eye was declared resolved in 41.5 percent of the acupuncture group and in 16.7 percent of the patched eye group, according to the study.

“The findings from this report indicate that the treatment effect of acupuncture for [lazy eye] is equivalent to the treatment effect of patching,” the authors write in their conclusion. They also note that their study group included only patients with a specific type of lazy eye, and follow-up time was limited. They also note that acupuncture “is a very complicated system of therapy. Differences exist among acupuncturists, and there are divergent manipulation modes, stimulation parameters, treatment styles, and subjective sensations evoked by acupuncture stimulation.” They conclude that larger, multifaceted, multicenter studies are warranted to bolster their findings.

Acupuncture is a traditional part of traditional Chinese medicine, and has been used to treat eye disorders such as dry eye and vision problems, according to the study.  MRI images show that using acupuncture to stimulate vision acupoints shows activation in the brain. The authors cite a previous study that has shown acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating lazy eye.

Dr. Willie Y.W. Chen, is an Atlanta board-certified ophthalmologist who also includes acupuncture in his practice.  “I have been using acupuncture to treat certain eye conditions but only with success," in a few,  including eye and head pain. he says.

Chen agrees that long-term follow-up will provide more answers to whether the treatment works.  He also expressed concern regarding the age group of the patients noting that the acupuncture points are located in some sensitive areas.  "Can 7-12 year olds tolerate this treatment?”

Lazy eye, also called amblyopia, affects an estimated  .3 to 5 percent of people worldwide, according to the study. It occurs when one eye is weaker than the other and the vision signals from the weaker eye are improperly processed by the brain.  Amblyopia happens when the nerve pathway from one eye to the brain does not develop during childhood, according the National Institutes of Health (NIH).   This leads to the abnormal eye sends a blurred image or the wrong image to the brain. This confuses the brain and the brain may learn to ignore the image from the weaker eye  according to the NIH.

Characteristics of the condition include eyes that do not appear to work together, including one eye turning in or out.  The patient may have poor vision in one eye and have difficulty with depth perception.

Early identification and treatment of lazy eye are important. Testing includes a vision screening and observing that the eyes may not coordinate properly. Typical treatment is to identify and correct any vision problems of the weaker eye using glasses or contact lenses, according to the study, which noted that while simply correcting the vision of children, ages 3 to 7, produced improvements of vision, older children, ages 7 to 12, had improved results by combining vision correction with patch therapy. Patch therapy, known as occlusion therapy, involves placing a patch over the child’s stronger eye and performing eye strengthening exercises with the weaker eye. But poor compliance to patch therapy is common, according to authors.


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soundoff (94 Responses)
  1. Tom

    1. "Dr. Willie Y.W. Chen, is an Atlanta board-certified ophthalmologist who also includes acupuncture in his practice. " Hmmm do i smell bias?
    1. Were is the control group? A group of 45 kids who are not treated at all?
    2. "Lazy eye was declared resolved". Who did the declaring, Dr Chen perhaps? Was this dome by someone who was biased towards acupuncture? Or was this done using an objective method? a Measurement perhaps?
    3. The literature on Acupuncture when analyzed against sham acupuncture shows that sham acupuncture the better it is faked, approaches the efficacy of real acupuncture. (ie the better you fake acupuncture the better the fake stuff works)
    4. Consider that negative studies (studies that do not show efficacy) tend not to be published. Hence not making it to CNN. This deceives the public into thinking Magical medicine works. (Acupuncture assumes that magical lines of energy flow though our body.)

    December 13, 2010 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Seumas

      Have you ever had acupuncture, Tom?

      December 13, 2010 at 17:10 | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      I bet you've run the gambit of alternative medicine. Homeopathy, chiropractic medicine, healing touch etc. We don't need more anecdotal examples (ie Hey it worked for me). We need large studies that are unbiased that follow good protocols that help us prevent human errors. Then these studies need to be criticized by a panel of peers. Oh yeah i forgot that this article doesn't include a review of the study by a panel of peers.

      December 13, 2010 at 17:51 | Report abuse |
    • Rin

      Have you all NOT heard of RESEARCH? The article's abstract is here. This is a legitimate study.

      http://archopht.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/128/12/1555

      December 13, 2010 at 17:54 | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      I'm not doubting that people doing the study have nothing but the best intentions. This is legitimate research? because it was picked up by CNN? Because it was peer reviewed? Because the observers were blinded? Because they used the gold standards for performing unbiased studies?

      December 13, 2010 at 18:28 | Report abuse |
    • cool neutral

      That's not the abstract you donkey. That's a different article

      December 13, 2010 at 18:36 | Report abuse |
    • Jay

      1) The article did not say Dr. Chen was involved in the study. How can you say he is biased? He is providing his own anecdotal evidence.

      December 13, 2010 at 18:38 | Report abuse |
    • cool neutral

      Here is the proper link:
      http://archopht.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/128/12/1510

      Critique to follow

      December 13, 2010 at 18:38 | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      Tom,
      A control group would be irresponsible with this condition. If not treated, this condition leads to the brain essentially shutting off the the affected eye, which means blindness in that eye. Progess must be made at a young age.
      While stats differ as to how late a child can still make progress, age 8 is often cited as the age at which progress with treatment stops. To not treat a child with diagnosed amblyopia would be doing harm to the child. There are laws protecting children from this very disservice. Would you like your child to be the guinea pig that receives no treatment? I know of no caring parent that would agree to that.

      These numbers are very interesting to me both as someone who was treated for amblyopia as a child and the mother of a child with amblyopia. It actually makes me consider asking if my 13 year old daughter might make any more progress with acupuncture. At age 5, she was Dx'd as being legally blind in her affected eye, she now sees 20/60 with a corrective lens in that eye because we her patched daily for 4 years.

      December 13, 2010 at 20:00 | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      So Tom your faith in the ability for the body to heal itself seems to be about nill. Acupuncture simply helps the body to heal itself unlike most all western medicine. Hard to argue with a medicine that has empirically PROVEN itself for 5000 years. How could be around for 5000 years if it didnt work.

      December 13, 2010 at 22:04 | Report abuse |
    • Rin

      Sorry cool natural. I was aware that was the correct link. I copied the wrong one because I study that journal extensively. That merits name-calling? "My bad". I wasn't aware I was commenting to a bunch of third graders.

      December 13, 2010 at 23:30 | Report abuse |
    • Rin

      Oh no! I'm sure to expect another name thrown at me for typing your name incorrectly as well.

      December 13, 2010 at 23:39 | Report abuse |
    • Willie Chen

      Dear Tom

      First of all, I was not involved in this particular study. Second, I practice 99% western medicine including medical and surgical practice. All I can say is that acupuncture does improve certain eye conditions but I have not treated any refractive error or lazy eye. But I have used acupunture needles with great success in treating posterior blepharitis, functional nasolarimal duct obstruction, and headache associated with eye pain. I also tried treating some dry eye, glaucoma and strabismus patients with acupuncture but they showed no improvement. Thanks for you comments

      December 13, 2010 at 23:59 | Report abuse |
    • Giovanni

      Disability? You ask me this is a gneitec upgrade. A world full of such people would be preferable to the one we have now.

      February 1, 2012 at 05:40 | Report abuse |
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      February 3, 2012 at 06:29 | Report abuse |
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      February 4, 2012 at 04:49 | Report abuse |
  2. sjperk

    having suffered from lazy eye for almost 30 years this is an amazing breakthrough!!!! hopefully kids in the future will not have to undergo patching which is both painful and humiliating.

    December 13, 2010 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DudeGenius

      @sjperk, in the same boat, totally agree, wish I had the option to try accupunture as a kid

      December 13, 2010 at 17:14 | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      I wonder how many of us there are out here? I did the patch etc. as a preschooler in the mid-60's. I've had surgery on both eyes, botox injections in the eye muscles, everything and they still don't completely work together. I will probably never have binocular vision so 3D movies don't do squat for me.
      Please get help for your kids if they have amblyopia or strabismus.

      December 13, 2010 at 18:23 | Report abuse |
  3. Tom

    5. Was the observer that was declaring efficacy blinded as to which therapy the used?

    There is a reason why there are protocols in Science. To get objective results.

    December 13, 2010 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Triscuit

      Tom, do you realize just how difficult it is to get published? They don't just willy-nilly publish any article that they want. It is extremely difficult to get research published. Clearly you are just recalling your primary school science days and trying to sound smart. They do not publish things unless it is very worthy. When they publish things, it is sent to their peers who then review it and if they don't feel it is fit, they are more than happy to reject it. Plus, you are calling a bias because an acupuncturist published a paper about acupuncture. So there is bias when a cardiologist publishes a paper about valve-replacement or an orthopedist publishes a paper about hip replacements?

      December 13, 2010 at 17:23 | Report abuse |
    • Raven

      If you really want answers tom, why don't you ask Dr.Chen himself instead of b****ing about it on the CNN comments.

      December 13, 2010 at 17:29 | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Yes it is hard to get published. There's a reason. That's is not a reason to "relax" protocols of science to get the results you want. Why don't I ask Dr Chen? Why doesn't CNN include these details in their articles? This kind of weak reporting misleads the public into burring them in magical, pre-scientific (Ancient) thinking. I'm waiting for the day CNN puts out an article showing the efficacy of Blood Letting for Brain Cancer.

      December 13, 2010 at 17:46 | Report abuse |
    • cool neutral

      Tom – it's pretty clear you didn't read this article or you wouldn't be asking these questions.

      December 13, 2010 at 19:01 | Report abuse |
  4. ancient

    there is a saying that Eastern medicine fixes problems, where Western medicine just covers it up. If this is false why are most Americans prescribed medicines that alleviate but never fix.

    December 13, 2010 at 17:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rain

      My economics professor once told my class, there will never be a "cure" because that's when the companies stop making money.

      December 13, 2010 at 17:40 | Report abuse |
  5. Paul

    Tom's right. One other reasonable explanation to the study outcome is that patching the eye retards resolution of the lazy eye, ergo, acupuncture looks good by comparison even though it lacks any efficacy.

    December 13, 2010 at 17:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cool neutral

      Nope. Occlusion therapy for better (or worse) has been the standard treatment for decades. There are no doubt better approaches, but this one generally improves performance of the amblyopic eye and is the standard treatment.

      December 13, 2010 at 18:49 | Report abuse |
  6. Jane

    Tom, how do you feel about the fact that all pharmaceutical research results are decided by scientists hired by the companies doing the funding? I understand that we want objectivity, but sadly, that is almost never the case. Also, the reason that "sham" acupuncture tends to get the same results as regular acupuncture protocols is because almost every spot on the human body can be an acupuncture point. And, not all points need to be punctured with a needle, they can be superficially stimulated as well. Lastly, if even "sham" acupuncture gets better results than regular biomedical interventions, doesn't that make you question the "science" of biomedicine?

    December 13, 2010 at 17:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom

      This is why studies even in pharmaceutical research need to be skeptically analyzed by a panel of peers. Not even pharmacological studies are immune to bias, publishing misleading and only positive results. In medicine nothing matters more than efficacy. If something in conventional medicine is show to not work it should be discarded like yesterday's trash.

      Most every spot is an acupuncture spot? Last i checked there were specific spots. If we can't use this "ancient" guide of specific spots what's the point of having it at all. Let's just start jabbing people anywhere and everywhere. If there are the same results from jabbing anywhere and the "real" (hate to use this word in this context) acupuncture then we need to find out why poking someone helps and jettison all the mumbo jumbo.

      December 13, 2010 at 18:04 | Report abuse |
  7. Michelle

    Now if only the ophthalmologists could design a blind study...

    *ba-dum-ching!*

    December 13, 2010 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom

      Pure gold.

      December 13, 2010 at 18:22 | Report abuse |
  8. Ralph

    Acupuncture isn't magical bugaboo; it has been consistently shown to be statistically significantly better than placebo (which means it works) for several conditions. That doesn't mean the whole energy lines, etc, isn't complete bunk. If I gave you an ibuprofen for your headache but claimed fairies made the pills from dragon blood, it doesn't suddenly make the pill ineffective. There's a great episode of Scientific American Frontiers episode out there covering alternative medicines: why most of them are crap, but several show rather surprising promise. http://www.pbs.org/saf/1210/

    December 13, 2010 at 18:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom

      Ok here's some science based medicine to chew on. http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=5452

      December 13, 2010 at 18:14 | Report abuse |
  9. Fariba

    Tom sounds like a pharmaceutical-paid stooge. If you want to carry a real torch, Tom, go and look at the staggering numbers of deaths caused by your western "medicine". Thanks, but no thanks. I think I'll stick to the 5,000 year-old "mumbo jumbo" that has yet to kill one human being.

    December 13, 2010 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom

      Let me give you an anecdotal example. A friend's father decided about 20 years ago that he was going to treat himself with everything in the book but conventional medicine. He developed Hodgkin's lymphoma that went untreated for probably a year. I took a look at him about 8 months before his death and knew he was in trouble but no one could convince him that he needed to see a doctor. This guy believed in everything but science. It was only after this guy had lost 40+ lbs, in severe pain and was a walking skeleton was he persuaded to try conventional medicine. By that time it was too late and he shortly died. I don't want this to happen to anyone else.

      Pharmaceutical paid stooge? nop. I'm and equal opportunity skeptic. Nothing but proof of efficacy matters in Scientific Medicine.

      December 13, 2010 at 18:21 | Report abuse |
    • DT

      Tom, your many posts on this subject remind me of good ol' Hank in that early episode of King of the Hill. I'd type a rebuff to your arguments but I can see that it would be a waste of time. All I can offer is a quote from my favorite author:

      "The man who spends his evenings sitting in front of the TV with a beer does little to expand his understanding of the world around him."

      I don't have the quote exactly right as it's from memory, but that's the gist of it. And I think you'd be surprised if you learned who the author actually is. But I'll leave that up to you to research if you wish...or you can just have another beer. 😉

      December 13, 2010 at 18:50 | Report abuse |
    • cool neutral

      then don't take antibiotics, vaccines or any manner of western derived medicine you donkey. You'll be dead from malaria or some other illness eradicated in the modern world soon enough.

      December 13, 2010 at 18:50 | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      DT, So true. But I still haven't burned out. I'll have that beer when i want to put our the fire in my belly.

      December 13, 2010 at 19:08 | Report abuse |
    • ieat

      tom, your friend's father isn't trained. Most acupuncturists in the US require a master's degree and some phDs. The master's degree usually take 5-6 years since there is no undergrad on acupuncture. The acupuncturists are not just someone putting on a rope pretending they're doctors.

      December 13, 2010 at 19:11 | Report abuse |
  10. Brett

    Tom–keeping fighting the good fight. You are right on in your thinking. I find it interesting that the accupuncture believers very quickly move from disputing your critical analysis of the study to name calling–a not so clever diversionary tactic. I suggest you believers all read Snake Oil Science–great book about how poorly designed research leads so many astray. No I'm not the author but I am a trained MD accupuncturist that no longer uses accupuncture after critically analyzing the existing research in a way that Tom advocates. I can anticipate that replies–MD can't totally grasp real Eastern medicine, Accupuncture can't be studied by Western methods–each treatment is individualized and on and on. So far I have not seen any well done research that shows accupuncture is superior to placebo for treating anything. If I see such a study and it is well designed, unbiased, double blind and placebo controlled then I will dust off my needles and use it for that specific problem. Until then......I'll stick to proven treatments.

    December 13, 2010 at 19:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ieat

      where did you get your MD for acupuncture? I believe there is only Phd for acupuncture in the US, not MD.

      December 13, 2010 at 19:19 | Report abuse |
    • vu

      Brett, You are a MD but how long have you been trained to become an acupuncturist in UCLA? 2 weeks? In a short period of time like that what you learned is the very tip of an ice berg. No wonder why you don't practice acupuncture. So please don't practice acupuncture with what you learned in two weeks. It does more harm to people than help.
      If you want to make acupuncture work, you should go through a 4 years program.

      December 14, 2010 at 01:41 | Report abuse |
  11. cool neutral

    Last, the control group for this study could be better. If this acupuncture works by the methods described by the authors, then they should have tested it against a different (unrelated) set of acupuncture sites – like maybe those for a cough or athletes' foot or something. There is also very little offered in terms of follow-up. The differences between the patched group and the acupuncture group are much smaller at 10 weeks after conclusion of treatment (15 weeks of treatment). I'm not sure if this is a standard duration for patching or not, but it seems on the shorter side. However, given that the acupuncture group improved at all is pretty cool and this study shouldn't be dismissed simply because it falls outside the perimeter of canonical western scientific thought.

    December 13, 2010 at 19:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom

      "If" acupuncture works yes it should be used by everyone. I would advocate for it all day long if it worked as the authors describe it. Unfortunately the literature on the subject show time and time again that the better the study, the more reduced is its efficacy or that there is none. Can you find studies that show positive effect? Yes. Were do they come from? Mostly China.

      December 13, 2010 at 19:22 | Report abuse |
  12. ieat

    Eastern and Western medicine server two very different purposes. Western medicine is excellent in solving acute diseases. Eastern medicine is excellent in chronic problems. Easter medicine such as acupuncture and herbs's philosophy is that when the body is balanced, the body can heal itself. It can't fix the problem ASAP which is a problem for those with acute problems. So in a way easter medicine concentrates more on wellness and early intervention, so to prevent problem ever escalating. But if the problem has escalated to something serious, western medicine works much better.

    December 13, 2010 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom

      Let's get something clear. People want to draw the line between western and eastern medicine like it's two opposing forces. There are things that work and things that don't. Your description of eastern and western medicine are exactly the position that alternative medicine proponents have retrieved to. "Ok we don't want to say that conventional medicine doesn't work but we still want to sell our miracle cures that are used for "acute" things, or things that conventional medicine doesn't have an answer for"

      December 13, 2010 at 19:31 | Report abuse |
    • ieat

      I don't think they're opposing at all. I think they serve two purposes. I had severe insomnia and back pain for 3 years after I had my child. I saw my family doctor for almost the whole 3 years consistently for the problem. The problem eventually turned into depression and anxiety from lack of sleep and the anxiety that I'm unable to sleep plus the stress as a new parent. I was up to the maximum amount of sleeping pill and it was simply not getting any better. Eventually I saw an acupuncturist who asked me before I even told her about my problem if I feel sad because she could tell from my pulse. Then after 2 months of treatment I am totally off sleeping pills or any medication. I'm free of medicine, including eastern medicine. The acupuncturist's explanation of my problem is that from giving birth, my body lost a lot of blood and it was never properly replenished. When there is a lack of blood/chi, the liver doesn't function well which causes hormonal imbalance including sleep hormone. The acupuncture puts needles in pressure points that basically warns our body that our organs need attention. The needle doesn't fix the problem. Our body is just steered to the right direction for it.

      December 13, 2010 at 19:39 | Report abuse |
    • adamB

      that is a huge false dichotomy. medicine either works or it doesn't. also, acupuncture is a treatment based on magical thinking and the majority of well conducted trials shows a lack of efficacy and this one small study is not going to overturn that just yet.

      December 13, 2010 at 19:39 | Report abuse |
    • adamB

      of course it is caused by a lack of chi... perhaps anyone who can believe garbage like that has a severe lack of chi to the brain

      December 13, 2010 at 19:42 | Report abuse |
    • ieat

      I'm very offended by your comment. Apparently you have never been paralyzed by depression, insomnia or anxiety. It's nothing to joke about.

      December 13, 2010 at 19:45 | Report abuse |
  13. Robin Benoit

    For the adults on this forum who have struggled with vision and through treatments as a child, please read "Jillian's Story: How Vision Therapy Changed My Daughter's Life." It's the inspirational true story of a 9 year old little girl who was diagnosed at age 5 with amblyopia. Three years of patching left her with double vision in what little peripheral vision she had, eyes that did not focus or team together and no depth perception. Fifteen months of vision therapy changed all that. You can read more about the book at http://www.jilliansstory.com. Vision Therapy is for adults too! Best of luck!

    December 13, 2010 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pamela

      Wow. Thank you!

      December 14, 2010 at 00:25 | Report abuse |
  14. Agustin

    Living in the western world we abviously have accepted western medicine, many time sdiscrediting other practices.

    Five years ago my son was seven years old and at that time he was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome. He had violent, uncontrolled movements of his eyes, head, arms, hands and grunting noises. Initially he was treated by a Neouro-Pediatrician who prescribed Catepresan and later, when that didn't work, Ritalin. Although the ticks went into remission, the side effects were frightening, my son was basically drugged out of his mind. Needless to say my wife and I decided it would be best for our son to live with his tics rather than be continuosly on medication. He was off medication for nearly three months with his ticks back in full swing when by chance we stumbled upon a doctor from Kiev, Ukraine that studied acupuncture in China. She saw our son and said that she had never administered acupuncture on such a severe neurological disorder, however should acupuncture not offer a cure, it would not have a negative side effect either. After some deliberation my wife and I decided to have our son undergo acupuncture therapy.

    It wasn't easy for him to accept the needles but we stood behind him and I even took therapy (for ciatic nerve) along with him in order to show support. After eight months, three sessions per week, my son's ticks were virtually eliminated. No more involuntary eye, hand, head or arm movement. No grunting sounds.

    For the past five years his ticks have been under control. Ocassionaly during periods of stress, i.e., school exams, etc. he may have a bit of blinking in his eyes but once the stress factor is eliminated, so too is the blinking.

    I am not a doctor, just a regular family man that is witness to two cases where acupuncture did have a positive effect (my ciatic problem was also cured). I want to share this because I am deeply grateful to my son's doctor for helping him lead a normal boy's life.

    December 13, 2010 at 19:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Dan Samber

    Tom,

    I agree with you that acupuncture (although intriguing) does make me raise a skeptical eyebrow. I did read through the paper and it does look OK. It would however be nice to know the frequency that amblyopia disappears on its own without treatment. I'm sure that having a "no treatment" control group would be unethical today but there has to be some statistics on this somewhere. In addition, a number of treatments have been found to alleviate this condition so adding acupuncture to the list is not that impressive to me.

    Dan

    December 13, 2010 at 19:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Brett

    leat–I am an MD that did additional training through the UCLA School of Medicine in accupuncture.

    leat you used the term "philosophy" when referring to Eastern medicine–and there is the crux of the issue. Western medicine is based on the scientific method and is not a philosophy. We develop a hypothesis and test it using valid, reliable methodology and either prove or disprove the hypothesis and then make treatment recommendations based on these results. It is not a belief system.

    The placebo response is a very powerful force and has fooled us many times. Unless accounted for it will fool you 25-40% of the time. The placebo response can moibilize the immune system, stop a tremor in Parkinson's patients, relieve pain and may even be in play in the treatment of Lazy eye with accupuncture. Notice no placebo control in this study and that limited follow up was noted (placebo response classically wears off in time). Also like most accupunture studies the qualifier at the end stated that larger study group needed etc. etc. etc. but the media picks up the study anyway and the story gets out the accupuncture works for lazy eye when in reality this study shows nothing of the sort.

    And the beat goes on.

    December 13, 2010 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ieat

      I didn't even know UCLA has an acupuncture program. Thanks for responding to my question. I'm only responding to this article based on personal experience. I don't know how it can be placebo effect when 3 yrs of sleeping pill did nothing for me when only 2 months of treatment in acupuncture did. One thing to note though is that to be a good acupuncturist, I believe one has to have a lot of training. Majority of the licensed acupuncturist in the US isn't trained as well as though in Asia. Acupuncturists are notorious in trying to keep "advanced skills" to themselves or their own students. I have seen some acupuncturists who didn't help me, and I have seen a few that are good.

      December 13, 2010 at 20:14 | Report abuse |
  17. Dr Bill Toth

    I have personally seen acupuncture do this and more. Lot's of discussion regarding acupuncture vs placebo effect. The result is what matters = improved vision. And the placebo effect, or "epi-genetic effect" is receiving greater acceptance in ever widening scientific circles. Readers who appreciate this might enjoy "The Biology of Belief" by Dr Bruce Lipton. Skeptics who reject it might consider reviewing that last three years of gentic research pointing to lifestyle choices having a greater effect on one's health status than genetics. Live With Intention, DRBillToth.com/blog

    December 13, 2010 at 20:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom

      Dr Bill, Your blog is filled with "Faith" "Belief" "nothing is impossible" etc. Oh look, what is that you are trying to sell? "Create Your Fate, Live With Intention". Sound like you are praying on the desperate.

      December 13, 2010 at 20:24 | Report abuse |
  18. Brett

    The result in one or two people is not what matters and it doesn't matter what we personally see. This is a haphazard and random approach. I would challenge you to read the science on the placebo response. It will change how you think about this issue. We owe it to our patients to treat them with proven treatments that have passed the rigors of scientific research this removes bias, the placebo response and anecdote as justification for treatment. Then we end up treating our patients with what offers them the best chance of helping them for the problem they have.

    It is tempting to think–"who cares how it works or why it works if it works on this patient?" This treatment approach would leave us literally randomly trying things on our patients hoping that they "work". I would rather know the numbers and not give false hope because inevitably the placebo response wanes and then the physician is left "trying" the next thing on the list of things that have worked for other patients.

    And the beat goes on.

    December 13, 2010 at 20:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Steve

    I can't believe CNN would post this. Every controlled study on this has shown it has no affect beyond placebo.

    Wow, CNN dropped the ball on this.

    December 13, 2010 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Dick

    I, like Tom, am a skeptic of alternative medicine. And I also have amblyopia. Usually, I would be on pages like this, lambasting the authors and journalists that pray on those in search of hope. This time, I'm the target audience. So call me extra irritated.:

    This article only inflames my already fiery hatred for the American media and its disrespect for their viewers. By publishing sensationalist stories that have little or no meaning, CNN is insulting its readers. By promoting acupuncture as a fix for amblyopia (or at least the hope of a fix), CNN is being irresponsible. By reporting on a topic that they obviously don't understand, CNN is showing their ignorance. By not filling the holes of story (Who are the authors? Who do they work for? Where did this happen?), CNN is obviously endorsing the writings of someone that hasn't even mastered Journalism 101.

    Until there is more positive evidence of the efficacy of acupuncture, it needs to be filed under pseudoscience. And until the tenets of science are universally understood and respected, media outlets should hire actual scientists to write their health and science section. Forget the bias of Dr. Chen, why didn't CNN at least bury the fact that there acupuncture is controversial and that there is no scientific consensus for it?

    Shoddy journalism, Ms. Curley.

    December 13, 2010 at 21:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Amy

    Two of my sons had amblyopia. My older son patched for a few months. It was no big deal whatsoever to do this for a few hours a day. It solved the problem. He was about 5 at the time. It is nothing compared to the fact that my sons were born deaf and have cochlear implants. We would just put the patch on and would reward keeping it on with a favorite activity.

    When my youngest was also discovered to have amblyopia, he was younger– 2. The glasses, prescribed by a pediatric eye doc, fixed it in a month. Age is the crucial factor here, just like it was for cochlear implants– if you do it when the brain is very young and plastic, you can make meaningful changes. Both my boys not have no trace of amblyopia, thanks to early identification and patching (and, they function like hearing kids– but that's another story).

    My husband, now 42, patched when he was a child and ended up having surgery on both eyes, successfully. He has no problems with his vision today.

    I find the comments about how awful patching is to be a bit silly, considering the fact that it is non-invasive. My kids liked to play pirate, so they actually thought it was fun at times. And, I think no one has noted the age of the kids in the study. Naturally, they would have been better responders to the patching had it been done when they were younger. In addition, this was a VERY small study, done one time. Let's see it be replicated before we get excited. Lastly, we do not know how compliant the patching kids were... we only know for sure that they were assigned a group. I haven't read the study, but it smells fishy. No one should rush out with a newly diagnosed amblyopic toddler and get accupuncture– they should put the darn patch on, like the doctor told them. And if you haven't taken your toddler for an eye exam, this explains why you should– because the earlier problems are identified, the more treatable they are.

    December 13, 2010 at 22:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dick

      Amy – Thanks. You're absolutely right. I'm 25 years old, so while some of my friends might still be playing 'pirate,' I feel I've outgrown it. Any other option to fix my amblyopia would be great. And that's why I'm frustrated that CNN would sell us this garbage.

      December 14, 2010 at 09:20 | Report abuse |
    • Jesse

      Welcome – it's great to have you bgliogng with us! I can add that the Telling Stories resource is from Monday going through evaluation with a network of colleagues across the UK, prior to its launch.

      January 31, 2012 at 23:47 | Report abuse |
  22. Chris

    I don't know if anyone has pointed this out since none of you seem to have access to the article. Being a member of the AMA, I do have access though. It ends with this little gem:

    "Author Contributions: The principal investigator Dr Lam
    had full access to all the data in the study and takes re-
    sponsibility for the integrity of the data and the accu-
    racy of the data analysis. Drs Zhao and Lam contributed
    equally to the study.
    Financial Disclosure: Drs Zhao, Lam, Chen, Zheng, Fan,
    and Zhang have filed with the US Patent and Trademark
    Office a provisional patent application for the stimula-
    tion of specific acupuncture points for the improvement
    of vision."

    Given the probable lack of double blindness, that all statistics and procedures were performed by those authoring the study, the tiny sample size (80 is very small when it comes to clinical experiments), and the massive conflict of interest disclosed, we can safely say that this study is highly compromised.

    December 14, 2010 at 01:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Chris

    In case anyone is wondering why I said, "probably lack of double blindness" it's because the patients obviously knew whether they were getting patch or needle and the investigator did as well. The only person that could have possibly not known is the person doing the statistics. However, it did not say this, so I'm doubting they bothered. Either way there were methodological problems that definitely biased the data.

    December 14, 2010 at 01:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John Santos

      For some degree of blindness in the study, they could have sent the patients to another ophthalmologist to asses their progress. This 3rd doctor would have to not know what treatment the patients had received. (It is possible the treatment would be obvious, due to needle marks or residual patch glue or discoloring of the skin around the eye from the patch or something like that, or maybe the blindness would be spoiled too frequently by the patient telling the doctor which treatment they had received. These are kids, after all.) The article makes it sound as if nothing like this was attempted, though.

      December 14, 2010 at 14:50 | Report abuse |
  24. Bsidelaura

    Tom, your comments pushed me to comment when I normally do not. I am an acupuncturist and take offense to your complete negative view on a modality of treatment that has been used for thousands of years...where our "modern science" pales. I agree there should be blind studies, etc. for drugs and treatment modalities in Westerrn medicine because the side-effects and efficacy can have very harmful side effects...besides the fact of the venture capital firms putting millions and billions of dollars into it! I have treated many patients and relieved more than a few entirely of their pain/condition. So because acupuncture can't be entirely proven by science your throw out the baby with the bath water?? CNN is not "shoving" or forcing anyone into getting acupuncture; they are just offering an alternative that might help someone's child get better. Tell me where is the injustice and crime in that? There are no side-effects with acupuncture...unless you count stress reduction, better sleep and improved immune function as a side-effect. You can't explain every little thing in the world of science and nature. The human body does well...and better in some cases...with both. It sounds like what happened to your dad has given you a violent distaste to "alternative" methods, which is understandable. We need Western medicine in major health cases. Although, "alternative" medicine was the first medicine for many many years before Western came along. There is a place for both. I would beg you to at least try acupuncture and see what it does for you before you slam it and give it up to hocus pocus. If you lived in my town I would treat you for free and let you be your own blind study! I wish you peace, acceptance and understanding.

    December 14, 2010 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John Santos

      Special pleading.

      December 14, 2010 at 14:51 | Report abuse |
    • rdekker

      "...a modality of treatment that has been used for thousands of years" And life expectancies were??? The use of something for thousands of years means it works???

      "Although, "alternative" medicine was the first medicine for many many years before Western came along." Again, how were those folks' lives? Long and healthy? Again, let's look at life expectancies. More recently, but still for many, many years, people used bleeding and other terrible ideas to "cure" disease. Probably worked about as well as acupuncture.

      This part not addressed to bsidelaura's post: Funny how a very obvious conflict of interest with a giant motive for bias in a science-based medicine study gets immediate and angry response from the sCAM crowd, but when it's a sCAM study, it's ignored or explained away.

      The negative side of simply trying out an unproven modality is that it might cause a user to delay or avoid appropriate treatment with science-based medicine. Sometimes this costs lives. http://whatstheharm.net/acupuncture.html

      December 14, 2010 at 21:04 | Report abuse |
  25. Reasonable

    After reading all the comments, wouldn't it be reasonable to do both? Afterall, while accupuncture might not technically fix the problem, there don't seem to be any negative consequences of simply trying it out.

    December 14, 2010 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Thor

    Acupuncture (along with homeopathy and all that other nonsense) is BS. Here's an article explaining exactly where this research went wrong, and why it's conclusions are meaningless even if they were real. http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=9030

    December 15, 2010 at 11:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Bsidelaura

    Thor: Please tell several of my patients suffering for years with horrible sciatic pain – who've tried everything under the sun Western including loads of aspirin and pain meds – that are now PAIN FREE and off all medications that acupuncture is BS. They, like I, will laugh in your face. I believe there is room for both... and I see amazing amazing results with just a few needles in a body. There aren't a bunch of millionaire acupuncturists walking around...we do it to heal people. And if it didn't work people wouldn't spend their hard earned money in times like these and keep coming back. It doesn't work for everyone and every condition; but to soley believe in a medicine/science that mainly treats symptoms without eradicating the disease, while causing side-effects that can be horrible...just because the study on paper says so... is, well, stupid...for lack of a better scientifically proven word.

    December 15, 2010 at 14:06 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.