TORONTO – A new study has found a link between socioeconomic status and the lazy eye, with researchers saying it could be because immigrant families and people of ultra-Orthodox faith are less likely to bring their children for regular eye exams or follow through with treatment plans.
Hebrew University researchers and medical officers from the Israel Defense Forces and Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem tracked the prevalence of lazy eye, known medically as amblyopia, in 1.5 million of Israeli teenagers.
Researchers analyzed their medical records and socio-economic data between 1993 and 2017.
While amblyopia rates have been declining in the country since 1993, the study found that one percent (14,367) of teens between the ages of 16 and 18 had lazy eyes. Researchers say this is a problem because not much can be done to correct visual impairment in this old age.
Lazy eye is a childhood disease where vision does not develop properly because one or both eyes are unable to make a strong connection with the brain. The study notes that the disease usually affects only one eye, causing the child to see less clearly from the affected eye and rely more on the other eye.
Researchers say the lazy eye can cause permanent visual damage, interfere with daily activities such as reading, walking or driving, and lead to social and financial deficits later in life if left undiagnosed. or treated before the age of seven.
The results were published Monday in the European Journal of Public Health.
The adolescents studied were potential military recruits, the researchers said, who already had to undergo mandatory health checks to assess their eligibility for military service, such as eye exams, as well as provide information on their socio-economic status, their education, their country of birth. , family income and cognitive function scores.
Researchers reported that lower socioeconomic status and a lower score on cognitive function tests increased the chances of having a lazy eye among those studied.
“While the overall prevalence of amblyopia has declined, being in the lowest socioeconomic status and having lower than average cognitive function scores has increased the risk of lazy eye in patients. men and women, ”said Hagai Levine, professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and lead author of the study. said in a Press release.
Additionally, researchers found that the prevalence of lazy eye was double among young men who grew up in ultra-Orthodox backgrounds compared to those who grew up in secular communities.
The study also found a higher rate of lazy eye among adolescents born outside of Israel, especially immigrants born in the Soviet Union, North Africa and Ethiopia, compared to immigrant adolescents from other countries or countries. to Israeli adolescents born to parents in these countries.
According to the study, Israeli children undergo “several” eye exams to quickly diagnose lazy eye and prevent long-term visual impairment from early childhood.
Additionally, the study noted that Israeli citizens have state-mandated medical insurance and treatment options at “minimal cost are theoretically available” for any child who needs them.
The study’s authors say more research is needed to better understand the barriers that create differences in the prevalence of lazy eye between various groups.
“We would like to see changes in Israel’s public health policy, especially to increase allocations for visual screening and monitoring of treatment adherence for populations vulnerable to the development of lazy eye,” said Dr Claudia Yahalom of Hadassah Medical Center in the statement.
According to the study, it is estimated that between one and five percent of children worldwide have lazy eyes.