Wearing spectacles improves reading ability in children with astigmatism

Children with astigmatism should wear spectacles full-time to avoid detrimental effects on their education, research suggests

04 Feb 2016 by Chris Somers

Wearing spectacles significantly improves reading ability in children with astigmatism, according to a new study.

Researchers in the US looked at a population of astigmatic school pupils aged 8–14 years old, none of whom had been prescribed spectacles or contact lenses, and compared their ability to read a paragraph of text aloud.

The group of 273 children was divided into three groups based on whether their astigmatism was severe, moderate or mild.

The 76 members of the ‘severe’ group were found to have significantly slower reading speed and accuracy than their peers in the other two groups.

The researchers then gave the children in the most affected group appropriate glasses and observed an average improvement in their reading speed of seven words-per-minute. This improvement was equal to the gain expected in pupils over half a year of school.

The authors of the study, which was published in the journal Optometry and Vision Science, believe that these results suggest that astigmatic students should be wearing spectacles full-time to avoid detrimental effects on their education.

Dr Anthony Adams, associate editor of Optometry and Vision Science, said: “The study highlights the importance of correcting significant astigmatism for children, especially if it is present in both eyes.”

Astigmatism is a common condition that causes blurred vision due to an irregular shape in the cornea or lens of the eye. The front of the eye is normally spherical, but in patients with astigmatism the surface is shaped more like an oval, meaning that light is not properly focused as it enters the eye.

Astigmatism is extremely common in the UK and is easily treatable with glasses or contact lenses, or occasionally with laser surgery. The problem is often present from birth but can also develop in later life.

Image credit: Steve Mueller

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