Eye Tests Predict Later Vision Trouble for Preemies

Astigmatism at young age is likely to continue, study finds

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FRIDAY, Nov. 17, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Having youngsters undergo eye tests at two-and-a-half years of age can help predict vision problems when they're 10 years old, Swedish researchers report.

Previous studies have found that refractive errors (problems with the degree of light that reaches the back of the eye) are more common in children born preterm (before 35 weeks of gestation) than in full-term children.

In this new study, researchers at Uppsala University Hospital checked for refractive errors in 198 preterm children at 6 months, 2.5 years, and 10 years of age. The researchers assessed the development of astigmatism (an unequal curve in one of the eye's refractive surfaces) and for anisometropia (a difference in refractive power between the two eyes that can lead to partial vision loss).

Reporting in the November issue of Archives of Ophthalmology, they found that 108 children had astigmatism at 6 months, 54 at 2.5 years, and 41 at 10 years. They also found that 15 children had anisometropia at 6 months, 17 at 2.5 years, and 16 at age 10.

"The presence of astigmatism and anisometropia at 2.5 years of age were the strongest risk factors for having astigmatism and anisometropia at 10 years of age," the study authors wrote.

"In this population-based study, we found that a refractive error at 2.5 years of age predicts that refractive error will also be present at 10 years of age," the team concluded.

"Recommendations for follow-up examinations must include all aspects of visual function, i.e., visual acuity, contrast sensitivity and visual fields, as well as the refraction, strabismus and perceptual problems. All preterm children should be included in such follow-up examination for refractive error, irrespective of the retinopathy of prematurity stage," the researchers wrote.

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a condition where there is abnormal development of blood vessels in the retina. The smaller the baby is at birth, the greater the risk of ROP.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about premature babies.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Nov. 13, 2006

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