Half of low-birthweight infants may have vision problems

September 1, 2007

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Half of children who weigh less than 1,701 g at birth may go on to experience ophthalmologic problems at the age of 10 to 13, and such visual problems are associated with worse cognitive function, according to a study in the July issue of the Archives of Disease in Childhood: Fetal and Neonatal Edition.

Terence Stephenson, of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, and colleagues looked at the relationship between visual problems and neurologic function in a cohort of subjects who weighed less than 1,701 g at birth. Of 505 infants in the initial cohort, 254 consented to eye exams at age 10 to 13 years, and 198 underwent a battery of neurologic tests.

They found that 50% of these 198 children had an adverse ophthalmologic outcome at age 10 to 13, including 48 cases of reduced acuity, 40 with myopia, 36 with strabismus, two with color defect, and one with a field defect. These visual impairments, which developed in the postnatal period, were associated with worse cognitive function, even after correcting for birth factors, such as mild retinopathy of prematurity.

Stephenson T, Wright S, O'Connor A, et al. Children born weighing less than 1701 g: visual and cognitive outcomes at 11–14 years. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2007;92:F265-F270.