The University of Southern California (USC) Eye Roski Institute, one of the nation’s Top 10 ophthalmology programs according to U.S. News & World Report, is announcing a call to action for all parents and educators to ensure children receive proper eye exams at an early age. Through awareness, education and early interventions, the USC Roski Eye Institute believes we can stem the tide of recent pediatric eye disease sight that may contribute to a reduction in the younger generation’s quality of life.
A new National Eye Institute (NEI)-funded study highlights that preschoolers ages 4 and 5 with uncorrected farsightedness (hyperopia), where children have difficulty seeing close-up, performed poorly on literacy tests relative to those with normal vision.
Researchers in the Vision in Preschoolers-Hyperopia in Preschoolers (VIP-HIP) study implemented a Preschool Early Literacy (TOPEL) test to examine the reading skills of 492 children. Eye exams were conducted on all children prior to administering the TOPEL. In the reported results, a substantial literacy deficit was observed in children with moderate farsightedness (3-6 diopters). Relative to the mild form, moderate farsightedness is associated with an increased number of diopters, which is the unit of measure of lens power that is required to correct vision. Most notably in this study, children with moderate farsightedness and reduced near visual function such as depth perception, had significant challenges in the print knowledge domain of the test, which assesses the ability to distinguish letters and words.
Elise Ciner, O.D., professor at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University in Philadelphia, and co-investigator of the study stated that, “Preschool children with moderate hyperopia and decreased near vision may benefit from referral for assessment of early literacy skills.” Ciner also indicated that early interventions in these children might provide a better educational outcome.
While a small percentage of children known to have severe farsightedness are corrected with prescription eyeglasses, it is common for cases of moderate farsightedness to go undetected. “This study adds to the growing concerns surrounding the prevalence of eye conditions such as moderate farsightedness in children,” says Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, who is the Chair of the USC Roski Eye Institute, Dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and epidemiology expert in eye diseases.
The results of the VIP-HIP study come on the heels of the recently completed Multi-Ethnic Pediatric Eye Disease Study (MEPEDS), conducted by researchers and clinicians from the USC Roski Eye Institute at Keck Medicine of USC in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, which assessed childhood eye disease in over 9000 Los Angeles area children ages 6 months to 6 years.
While 4-14% of children overall are found to have moderate farsightedness, the MEPEDS found that children in specific racial/ethnic groups are at higher risk of developing farsightedness. The prevalence of farsightedness (+2 diopters or greater) was highest in Hispanic (26.9%) and Non-Hispanic White children (25.7%), but lower in African American (20.8%) and Asian children (13.5%). Thus, non-Hispanic white and Hispanic children are twice as likely to be farsighted than Asian children. Two other significant observations made in the study were that moderate levels of farsightedness was associated with the development of both amblyopia (lazy eye- poor visual development in an eye) and strabismus (misalignment of the eyes).
“Studies such as these are crucial. Knowing the risk factors associated with farsightedness along with the impact that it can have on the intellectual development of our children, should be considered when creating guidelines for screening and intervention in preschool children,” says Varma. “The results emphasize the importance of vision screening in children at an early age, as detection and treatment of farsightedness, can lead to a more promising future for our children.”
About the USC Roski Eye Institute
The USC Roski Eye Institute, part of the Keck Medicine of USC university-based medical enterprise, has been a leader in scientific research and innovative clinical treatments for 40 years. Among the top three funded academic-based medical centers by the National Eye Institute (NEI) research grants and ranked in the Top 10 ophthalmology programs in U.S. News & World Report‘s annual “Best Hospitals” issue for more than 20 years, the USC Roski Eye Institute is headquartered in Los Angeles with clinics in Arcadia, Beverly Hills and Pasadena.
Patients from across the country come to see the USC Roski Eye Institute experts who treat a comprehensive array of eye diseases across the life spectrum from infants to aging seniors. The USC Roski Eye Institute is known for its scientific research and clinical innovation including: creation of the Argus implant (also known as the “bionic eye”) for retinitis pigmentosa (RP) patients; stem cell therapies for those who have age-related macular degeneration; discovery of the gene that is the cause of the most common eye cancer in children; treatment for eye infections for AIDS patients; inventors of the most widely used glaucoma implant in the world; pioneers of a device for long-term intraocular drug delivery; and the first to use telesurgery to train eye doctors in developing countries. For more information visit: eye.keckmedicine.org. or eye.keckmedicine.org.