Bifocals help children with Down syndrome

Tuesday 18 October 2022, 14:30
PhD defence
Speaker or Ph. D. student
C. de Weger-Zijlstra
prof. dr. A.V. van den Berg
dr. F.N. Boonstra, dr. H.H.L.M. Goossens
Faculty of Medical Sciences, Donders Center of Medical Neurosciences

Children with Down syndrome (DS) typically have reduced visual acuity and accommodative lag (deficiency in optical focussing). Their development of visual, motor and cognitive functions is atypical and it is unknown whether visual impairments in children with DS aggravate their delay in cognitive development. Therefore the effects of bifocals and unifocals in children with DS (n=104, aged 2-16 years) are compared in a multicentre (15) randomized controlled trial in the Netherlands. After one year, wearing bifocals had positive effects on distant visual acuity, near visual acuity (uncrowded and even more on crowded near vision), ocular alignment and executive function, which suggests that there is indeed a link between visual and executive functioning in children with DS. In conclusion, the prescription of bifocals (near addition +2.5 dioptres, straight-top placed on pupil, with full correction of refractive error) improves visual functions as well as educational and developmental prospects in children with DS.

Christine de Weger-Zijlstra (1959 ) was the first orthoptist in a Down-team in 1993 and orthoptics-information-specialist at the Nederlands Paramedisch Instituut, NPI  in 2002-2004. She received her academic master degree Evidence Based Practice in Health Care at the Amsterdam University in 2007. From 2009 she worked at Bartiméus (institute for the visually impaired) and from 2014 as a researcher at the Donders Institute, CNS, Nijmegen.

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