NI research shines light on link between Down’s syndrome and poor near vision

Scientists from Ulster University in Northern Ireland have discovered one of the underlying reasons why young children with Down’s syndrome have historically suffered from poor near-vision.

Until now, the precise cause of sight problems in Down’s syndrome sufferers has remained unidentified, but Ulster’s studies have revealed that the issue is linked with difficulties maintaining focus.

According to Ulster University’s Dr Julie-Anne Little, children with Down’s syndrome “align the eyes well” but have trouble focusing correctly on nearby objects.

Dr Little said: “Children with Down’s syndrome are known to be visual learners but from an early age they can have vision problems.

“It is therefore important that their visual needs are met in order to maximise their educational development and quality of life.”

The university’s three-year study involved 41 participants with the genetic condition, aged six to 16 – 75% of whom had problems focusing.

The results were then compared with 76 children without the condition.

Researchers used sophisticated techniques to study how the children moved their eyes and viewed specific objects – analysing all three aspects of near vision: eye movements, pupils and focusing simultaneously.

“Our research clearly found that children with Down’s syndrome try to see but fail to focus,” Dr Little said.

“Future research should now explore the possibility of a neurological or muscular anomaly in optics of the Down’s syndrome eye.

“This promises great potential in leading to a breakthrough in better vision solutions for the hundreds of thousands of people in the world who have Down’s syndrome.”

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