More attention needs to be paid to children’s eyesight, international researchers say

More attention needs to be paid to children’s eyesight, international researchers say

by Freya Lucas

January 17, 2022

Given that the mobility and motor skills of toddlers and young children are closely aligned with good vision and eye health, more attention needs to be paid to those domains when children are in their early years of life, to ensure optimal outcomes in terms of development. 

 

Researchers from Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Canada shared this perspective in a new article in Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, bringing together experts in vision and neonatal development to discuss their findings. 

 

The presence of astigmatism and abnormal motor function at two years of age, researchers said, may be associated with poorer vision at four and a half years of age. In particular, abnormal motor abilities such as inaccurate tracing, grasping and catching are key warning signs.

 

“Children who show poorer motor skills at an early age may benefit from comprehensive eye examinations to make sure these children get the best start to life, particularly with regard to reading and learning once they start school,” senior author Professor Nicola Anstice said. 

 

“Existing clinical tests for two-year-old children’s vision are not predictive of visual outcomes at four and a half years, so we recommend the development of more sensitive tests for this,” she explained, adding that vision issues go undetected in an estimated one in four children.

 

While mild to moderate vision loss affects many children and can negatively impact a child’s early literacy and academic achievement, there is no consensus on which factors present in early childhood indicate the need for long-term ophthalmic follow-up, particularly in children with a history of perinatal adversity.

 

Using a longitudinal study of vision and neurodevelopmental milestones of a large cohort of 516 children at risk of perinatal adversity, the researchers observed a direct correlation between poor motor scores at two years of age with a reduced ability to perceive depth (or 3D vision, known as ‘stereopsis’) at four and a half years old.

 

This study identified the relationship between visual, cognitive, motor and demographic factors at two years of age and visual acuity (VA) and stereoacuity at four and a half years of age – paving the way for development of a new approach in ophthalmic practice in the future, the paper concludes.

 

To access the findings in full please see here.

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