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Amblyopia: Study Claims ‘Lazy Eye’ Puts Children at Higher Risk as Adults Health News


People who had amblyopia (‘lazy eye’) as children have a higher risk of high blood pressure, obesity and metabolic syndrome as well as heart attacks as adults, according to a new study carried out by UCL researchers.

In publishing the study in eClinicalMedicine, the authors emphasized that while they identified a correlation, their study did not show a causal relationship between amblyopia and ill health in adulthood.
Researchers analyzed data from more than 126,000 participants aged 40 to 69 from the UK Biobank Cohort, who underwent eye examinations.

Participants were asked at recruitment whether they had been treated for amblyopia in childhood and whether they still had the condition in adulthood. They were also asked if they had a medical diagnosis of diabetes, hypertension, or cardiovascular/cerebrovascular disease (eg, angina, heart attack, stroke).
Meanwhile, their BMI (body mass index), blood glucose and cholesterol levels were also measured and mortality was tracked.

The researchers confirmed that of the 3,238 participants who reported having ‘lazy eye’ as children, 82.2% had continued decline in one eye as adults.

The study found that participants with amblyopia as children were 29% more likely to develop diabetes, 25% more likely to develop high blood pressure and 16% more likely to be obese. They were also at increased risk of heart attack – even when other risk factors for the condition (such as other diseases, race and social class) were taken into account.

This increased risk of health problems was found not only in those who continued to have vision problems, but also to a lesser extent in participants who had amblyopia as children and 20/20 vision as adults, although the correlation was not as strong.

Corresponding author, Professor Jugnu Rahi (UCL Great Ormond Street Institute for Child Health, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Great Ormond Street Hospital), said: “Amblyopia is an eye condition that affects four in 100 children. In the UK, all children receive rapid diagnosis and Vision screening should be done before the age of five to ensure relevant eye care.

“It is rare to have a ‘marker’ in childhood that is associated with an increased risk of serious disease in adult life, and that is measured and known for every child – because of population screening.
“The large number of affected children and their families may consider our results as an additional encouragement to try to achieve healthy lifestyles from childhood.”

It’s a neurodevelopmental condition that develops when how the brain and eyes work together and the brain can’t properly process visual signals from the affected eye. Because it usually causes vision loss in only one eye, many children do not notice anything wrong with their vision and are only diagnosed with a vision test between the ages of four and five.

A recent report by the Academy of Medical Sciences, involving some researchers from the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute for Child Health, calls on policymakers to tackle the deterioration of physical and mental health of children under the age of five in the UK and to prioritize child health.
The team hopes their new research will help reinforce this message and highlight how child health lays the foundation for adult health.

First author, Dr Siegfried Wagner (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital), said: “Sight and eyes are sentinels for overall health – whether heart disease or metabolic dysfunction, they are closely linked to other organ systems. This is one of the reasons we have good vision in both eyes. screen for

“We emphasize that our study does not show a causal relationship between amblyopia and ill health in adulthood. Our study means that ‘average’ adults who were diagnosed with amblyopia as children are more likely to develop these diseases than ‘average’ adults. The results do not mean That every child with amblyopia will inevitably develop cardiometabolic disorders in adulthood.”

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