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Refractive development in children with Down's syndrome: a population based, longitudinal study
  1. Olav H Haugena,
  2. Gunnar Høvdinga,
  3. Isa Lundströmb
  1. aDepartment of Ophthalmology, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway, bVestlund Habilitation Resource Center
  1. Olav H Haugen, Department of Ophthalmology, Haukeland University Hospital, N-5021 Bergen, Norwayohha{at}


AIMS To study the refractive development in children with Down's syndrome longitudinally.

METHODS An unselected population of 60 children with Down's syndrome was followed with repeated retinoscopies in cycloplegia for 2 years or more (follow up 55 (SD 23) months). Accommodation was assessed with dynamic retinoscopy.

RESULTS From longitudinal spherical equivalent values of the right eye, three main categories of refraction were defined: stable hypermetropia (<1.5 D difference between the first and last visit) (n=34), increasing hypermetropia (“hypermetropic shift”; ⩾1.5 D difference) (n=11), and decreasing hypermetropia/development of myopia (“myopic shift”; ⩾1.5 D difference) (n=9). Patients with anisometropia (n=6) were evaluated separately. In the stable hypermetropia group three sublevels were chosen: low (⩽+2.0 D at the last visit), moderate (+2.25 to + 4.0 D), and high (>+4.0 D). An accommodation weakness was found in 55% of the children. Accommodation weakness was significantly less frequent in the stable, low grade hypermetropia group (22%) than in all the other groups (p=0.008). The frequency of astigmatism ⩾1.0 D at the last visit was 57%, the direction of axis being predominantly “with the rule.” All the eyes with oblique astigmatism had a side specific direction of axis; the right eyes belonging to the 135° axis group and the left eyes to the 45° axis group.

CONCLUSION A stable, low grade hypermetropia was significantly correlated with a normal accommodation. Accommodation weakness may be of aetiological importance to the high frequency of refractive errors encountered in patients with Down's syndrome. A striking right-left specificity in the oblique astigmatic eyes suggests that mechanical factors on the cornea from the upward slanting palpebral fissures may be a major aetiological factor in the astigmatism.

  • accommodation
  • astigmatism
  • children
  • Down's syndrome
  • refractive errors

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