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Prevalence and risk factors for common vision problems in children: data from the ALSPAC study

Abstract

Objective: To estimate the distribution and predictors of some common visual problems (strabismus, amblyopia, hypermetropia) within a population-based cohort of children at the age of 7 years.

Methods: Children participating in a birth cohort study were examined by orthoptists who carried out cover/uncover, alternate cover, visual acuity and non-cycloplegic refraction tests. Prospectively collected data on potential risk factors were available from the study.

Results: Data were available for 7825 seven-year-old children. 2.3% (95% CI 2.0% to 2.7%) had manifest strabismus, 3.6% (95% CI 3.3% to 4.1%) had past/present amblyopia, and 4.8% (95% CI 4.4% to 5.3%) were hypermetropic. Children from the lowest occupational social class background were 1.82 (95% CI 1.03% to 3.23%) times more likely to be hypermetropic than children from the highest social class. Amblyopia (p = 0.089) and convergent strabismus (p = 0.066) also tended to increase as social class decreased.

Conclusions: Although strabismus has decreased in the UK, it and amblyopia remain common problems. Children from less advantaged backgrounds were more at risk of hypermetropia and to a lesser extent of amblyopia and convergent strabismus. Children’s eye-care services may need to take account of this socio-economic gradient in prevalence to avoid inequity in access to care.

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