Amblyopia in childhood linked to obesity and heart attack risk

New University College London research has outlined an elevated risk of hypertension in adults who experienced amblyopia as children

A young girl walks on a path in the woods wearing a red dress, white cardigan and grey hat with cat’s ears and face
Pixabay/Julia Rose

A new study from University College London (UCL) scientists has highlighted an increased risk of obesity, hypertension and heart attacks in adults who had amblyopia as children.

The research, which was published in eClinicalMedicine, also found that experiencing amblyopia as a child was associated with an elevated risk of developing metabolic syndrome as an adult.

The authors highlighted that while there is a correlation between experiencing amblyopia in childhood and health conditions in adulthood, a causal relationship has not been established.

The study involved analysis of UK Biobank data from 126,000 people between the ages of 40 and 69 who had received an ocular examination.

Of the 3238 participants who experienced amblyopia as children, 82% had persistent reduced vision in one eye as an adult.

Those with childhood amblyopia had an increased risk of diabetes (a 29% elevated risk), hypertension (25%) and obesity (16%). These participants also had an increased risk of heart attack, even when other risk factors (such as co-morbidities, social class and ethnicity) were taken into account.

An elevated risk of health conditions was found in adults who experienced amblyopia as children, but did not have a persistent loss of vision. However, the correlation in this group was not as strong.

Corresponding author, Professor Jugnoo Rahi, of UCL, highlighted that amblyopia affects up to four in 100 UK children.

“It is rare to have a ‘marker’ in childhood that is associated with increased risk of serious disease in adult life, and also one that is measured and known for every child – because of population screening,” she said.

“The large numbers of affected children and their families may want to think of our findings as an extra incentive for trying to achieve healthy lifestyles from childhood,” Rahi shared.