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A child wearing an adhesive eyepatch to correct amblyopia

An eyepatch is a small patch that is worn in front of one eye. It may be a cloth patch attached around the head by an elastic band or by a string, an adhesive bandage, or a plastic device which is clipped to a pair of glasses. It is often worn by people to cover a lost, infected, or injured eye, but it also has a therapeutic use in children for the treatment of amblyopia. Eyepatches used to block light while sleeping are referred to as a sleep mask.

An eyepad or eye pad is a soft medical dressing that can be applied over an eye to protect it. It is not necessarily the same as an eyepatch.[1]


In the years before advanced medicine and surgery, eyepatches were common for people who had a lost or injured eye. They were particularly prevalent among members of dangerous occupations, such as soldiers and sailors who could lose an eye in battle. While stereotypically associated with pirates, there is no evidence to suggest the historical accuracy of eye patch wearing pirates before several popular novels of the 19th century (see Association with pirates below).

Medical uses


Eye patching is used in the orthoptic management[2] of children at risk of lazy eye (amblyopia), especially strabismic or anisometropic[3] amblyopia. These conditions can cause visual suppression of areas of the dissimilar images[4] by the brain such as to avoid diplopia, resulting in a loss of visual acuity in the suppressed eye and in extreme cases in blindness in an otherwise functional eye. Patching the good eye forces the amblyopic eye to function, thereby causing vision in that eye to be retained.[2][3] It is important to perform "near activities" (such as reading or handiwork) when patched, thereby exercising active, attentive vision.[5]

A study provided evidence that children treated for amblyopia with eye patching had lower self-perception of social acceptance.[6] To prevent a child from being socially marginalized by their peers due to wearing an eye patch, atropine eye drops may be used instead. This induces temporary blurring in the treated eye.

It has been pointed out that the penalization of one eye by means of patching or atropine drops does not provide the necessary conditions to develop or improve binocular vision. Recently, efforts have been made to propose alternative treatments of amblyopia that do allow for the improvement of binocular sight, for example, using binasal occlusion or partially frosted spectacles[4] in place of any eye patch, using alternating occlusion goggles or using methods of perceptual learning based on video games or virtual reality games for enhancing binocular vision.

A 2014 Cochrane Review sought to determine the effectiveness of occlusion treatment on patients with sensory deprivation amblyopia, however no trials were found eligible to be included in the review.[7] However, it is suggested that good outcomes from occlusion treatment for sensory deprivation amblyopia rely on compliance with the treatment.

Extraocular muscle palsy

To initially relieve double vision (diplopia) caused by an extra-ocular muscle palsy, an eye care professional may recommend using an eyepatch. This can help to relieve the dizziness, vertigo and nausea that are associated with this form of double vision.[8][9][10]

Use by aircraft pilots

Aircraft pilots used an eye patch, or close one eye to preserve night vision when there was disparity in the light intensity within or outside their aircraft, such as when flying at night over brightly lit cities, so that one eye could look out, and the other would be adjusted for the dim lighting of the cockpit to read unlit instruments and maps.[11] Some military pilots have worn a lead-lined or gold-lined eyepatch, to protect against blindness in both eyes, in the event of a nuclear blast or laser weapon attack.[12][13][14]

Eyepatches are not currently used by military personnel; modern technology has provided an array of other means to preserve and enhance night vision, including red-light and low-level white lights, and night vision devices.[15][16][17]

Association with pirates

1783 etching of wounded sailors

Ex-sailors ashore sometimes wore an eye patch to cover the loss of an eye, but pirates rarely wore eye patches while aboard ships. There were some exceptions, including Rahmah ibn Jabir al-Jalahimah, a well-known pirate of the Persian Gulf, who wore an eye patch after losing an eye in battle.[18][19]

Medical texts have referred to the eye patch as a "pirate's patch" and, writing in the Minnesota Academy of Sciences Journal in 1934, Charles Sheard of the Mayo foundation pointed out that by "wearing a patch (The pirate's patch) over one eye, it will keep the covered eye in a state of readiness and adaptation for night vision".[20] This technique was explored during WWII by institutes such as the United States Navy.[21] The proposal that pirates may have worn an eyepatch so that one eye would be pre-adjusted to below-deck darkness was tested in an episode of MythBusters in 2007 and found to be plausible, but without any recorded historical precedent.[22]

Notable wearers

In fiction

This section may contain irrelevant references to popular culture. Please remove the content or add citations to reliable and independent sources. (February 2024)

An eyepatch can be used in fiction to lend an additional dimension to a character, an air of mystery or general je ne sais quoi.[74]

See also


  1. ^ Google search
  2. ^ a b Georgievski Z, Koklanis K, Leone J (2007). "Orthoptists' management of amblyopia – a case based survey". Strabismus. 15 (3): 197–203. doi:10.1080/09273970701631975. PMID 18058356. S2CID 26471932.
  3. ^ a b Georgievski Z, Koklanis K, Leone J (2008). "Fixation behaviour in the treatment of amblyopia using atropine". Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology. 36 (Suppl 2): A764–A765.
  4. ^ a b Final Activity and Management Report Summary - SVS (Strabismus and visual suppression) Archived 2020-05-11 at the Wayback Machine, CORDIS
  5. ^ Birch EE (2013). "Amblyopia and binocular vision". Progress in Retinal and Eye Research (Review). 33: 67–84. doi:10.1016/j.preteyeres.2012.11.001. PMC 3577063. PMID 23201436.
  6. ^ Webber AL, Wood JM, Gole GA, Brown B (November 2008). "Effect of amblyopia on self-esteem in children". Optometry and Vision Science. 85 (11): 1074–81. doi:10.1097/OPX.0b013e31818b9911. PMID 18981922. S2CID 205907362.
  7. ^ Antonio-Santos, Aileen; Vedula, S. Swaroop; Hatt, Sarah R.; Powell, Christine (23 March 2020). "Occlusion for stimulus deprivation amblyopia". The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 3 (3): CD005136. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005136.pub4. ISSN 1469-493X. PMC 7089638. PMID 32203629.
  8. ^ O'Sullivan, S.B & Schmitz, T.J. (2007). Physical Rehabilitation. Philadelphia, PA: Davis. ISBN 978-0-8036-1247-1.
  9. ^ Kernich CA (2006). "Diplopia". The Neurologist. 12 (4): 229–230. doi:10.1097/01.nrl.0000231927.93645.34. PMID 16832242.
  10. ^ Edlow, Jonathan; Selim, Magdy (2010). Neurology Emergencies. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-538858-9.
  11. ^ Roy Brocklebank (2005). WORLD WAR III – The 1960s Version. Journal of Navigation, 58, pp 341-347 doi:10.1017/S0373463305003413
  12. ^ Nuclear flash eye protection, Steen Hartov
  13. ^ "Les Frazier". Archived from the original on 2010-01-01. Retrieved 2008-07-24.
  14. ^ "Laser Weapons". Archived from the original on 2008-09-15. Retrieved 2008-07-24.
  15. ^ Luria, S. M.; D. A. Kobus (26 April 1985). "IMMEDIATE VISIBILITY AFTER RED AND WHITE ADAPTATION" (PDF). Naval Submarine Research Laboratory. Department of the Navy. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 26, 2010. Retrieved 2011-06-01.
  16. ^ "A Guide to the U. S. Naval Air Station at Vero Beach" (PDF). Indian River County Main Library. July 1999. Retrieved 2011-06-01.
  17. ^ "We Own The Night". Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate (NVESD). Archived from the original on 2011-05-17. Retrieved 2011-06-01.
  18. ^ Lampe, Christine (2010). The Book of Pirates. Gibbs Smith. p. 14. ISBN 9781423614807.
  19. ^ Belgrave, Charles (1966). The Pirate Coast. George Bell & Sons. p. 122.
  20. ^ Sheard, Charles (1934). "Night Vision". Minnesota Academy of Sciences Journal. 2–12: 26.
  21. ^ "Night Vision". Addendum to the Handbook of the Hospital Corps, United States Navy. 1939. United States. Navy Dept. Bureau of Medicine and Surgery: A–2. 1944.
  22. ^ MythBusters, episode 71
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  24. ^ [2] Archived 2014-08-08 at the Wayback MachineSightseeing Madrid - The Princess of Eboli
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  27. ^ "Los Angeles Times". Archived from the original on 2012-11-07. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
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  29. ^ Bruce Peterson Bio Archived 2017-06-29 at the Wayback MachineLee Majors Online
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  32. ^ "Obituary: Lord Mowbray and Stourton". The Telegraph. December 14, 2006. Archived from the original on 2022-01-12.
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  34. ^ Dale Chihuly opens Rhode Island school gallery MSNBC
  35. ^ NASA Oral History TranscriptNASA
  36. ^ "SNL, Pete Davidson Under Fire For Jokes About Veteran and GOP Congressional Candidate's Eye Patch". National Review. 5 November 2018.
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  43. ^ UNRAVELING THE MYSTERY OF WHITE BIRD'S FLIGHT[permanent dead link] Boston Globe Mar 8, 1987
  44. ^ a b Scorsese's film `Journey' whirls through magnificent obsession Archived 2016-03-06 at the Wayback Machine The San Diego Union
  45. ^ Dreams come true again Archived 2012-11-07 at the Wayback Machine The Herald - Glasgow (UK) Jan 31, 2000
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  58. ^ Nicolas-Jacques Conté This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainWood, James, ed. (1907). The Nuttall Encyclopædia. London and New York: Frederick Warne. ((cite encyclopedia)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  59. ^ "German chancellor Olaf Scholz wears eye patch after fall in Potsdam". 5 September 2023.
  60. ^ "David Mason remembers friend Patrick Leigh Fermor: "What a life!"". Stanford University. June 29, 2016.
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  67. ^ Kansas '70s superstars lead lineup of Celebration bands By DAVID BURKE The Herald & Review August 4, 1999
  68. ^ Interview with Ron Hamilton (Patch the Pirate) Archived 2014-08-08 at the Wayback Machine The Baptist Voice
  69. ^ ‘What I actually look like’: Salman Rushdie shares first selfie since 2022 attack
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  72. ^ Without Bad Luck, He'd Have No Luck at All by John Branch The New York Times March 24, 2006
  73. ^ POST, WILEY HARDEMAN Texas State Historical Association
  74. ^ Kellie McGann (9 November 2016). "This New Characterization Technique Could Transform Your Writing". The Write Practice. Retrieved June 27, 2021. What do we think when we see someone wearing an eyepatch? We immediately wonder. 'What happened? Is it real? Were they born that way? Was there an accident?' In other words, 'What's the STORY?!'Alex Walker (November 11, 2015). "How a 5-cent Eye-Patch Created a Million Dollar Story". Retrieved June 27, 2021. Oglivy explained that the eye-patch was intended to turn the image from a 'product photo shoot' into a story. It seems silly to say, but most of us find it hard to look at this man without wondering: Who is he? How did he lose that eye? Was he in the war? Was it a bar fight? Is he a spy?
  75. ^ a b c d e f Staff (April 12, 2013). "The 8 Essential Eyepatches in Science Fiction".
  76. ^ a b c d e Martin Chilton (January 28, 2011). "The one-eyed legends of the big screen". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2022-01-12.
  77. ^ "Louis Forton".
  78. ^ John Brownlee (November 1, 2016). "13 Immortal Costumes From The Closet Of David Bowie".
  79. ^ Ed Zotti (September 22, 1983). "Nothing ever makes sense in Brenda Starr". San Diego Reader. Retrieved June 27, 2021.
  80. ^ "Sally". 4 September 2020. Retrieved June 27, 2021. For 6 months, Sally experienced amblyopia ('lazy eye') and wore an eye patch
  81. ^ Alex Walker (November 11, 2015). "How a 5-cent Eye-Patch Created a Million Dollar Story". Retrieved June 27, 2021."History of advertising: No 110: The Hathaway man's eyepatch". Campaign. October 16, 2014. Retrieved June 27, 2021.