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Two-year boost for Downs children; HEALTH WALES.

A THIRD of children with Downs syndrome with special glasses to help them focus may only need to wear them for two years.

New research by Cardiff School of Optometry and Vision Sciences Downs Syndrome Research Unit has found that children may only need to wear bifocals for two years before returning to ordinary glasses.

Children with Downs syndrome are more likely than ordinary children to have eye and vision problems.

While only 5% to 8% of primary school-aged children need spectacles, about 60% of children with Downs syndrome need them. Common defects include squints (eye-turn), poor focusing and reduced detail vision.

Dr Maggie Woodhouse, who is leading the bifocal study funded by the Health Foundation, said: "Our study provides further evidence in support of more widespread use of bifocal lenses for this group of young people.

"We found that before bifocal wear, Downs syndrome children have a focusing problem not because they cannot focus but because they do not focus.

"More specifically, the children accommodate much more accurately through their bifocals than do the control children through their ordinary lenses.

"Surprisingly, the children with bifocals also accommodate more accurately when looking over the top of their bifocals through the distance part of the lens.

"This suggests that the bifocals are teaching the children to use their own focusing ability. Our research gives us important information about what to look for to explain this problem."

She added: "Much of our work has already led to children with Downs syndrome being able to reach their full visual potential. This latest research emphasises the need for bifocals to be a central part of practice protocols within healthcare."
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 5, 2008
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