Eye Health

Updated 15 March 2018

Eye defect may up mental illness

Children with "exotropia type" strabismus - a visual defect in which the eyes are misaligned and turn outward - may be at risk for developing mental illness by young adulthood

A new study suggests that children with "exotropia type" strabismus - a visual defect in which the eyes are misaligned and turn outward - may be at increased risk for developing mental illness by young adulthood.

However, children with "esotropia type" strabismus, in which the eyes are turned inward, do not appear to be at increased risk for mental illness in early adulthood, according to the study published in Paediatrics.

Strabismus is often informally referred to as "cross-eyes." People with the condition may have one or two eyes that turn inward, outward, up or down. The exact cause of such misalignment is not fully clear.

For their study, Dr Brian G. Mohney and colleagues from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, reviewed the medical records for 407 patients with childhood strabismus and 407 matched control subjects from Olmsted County, Minnesota.

Risk increase 3-fold
Through follow-up to an average age of 17.4 years, 41.3% of strabismus patients and 30.7% of controls were diagnosed with a mental illness.

Further analysis showed that children with exotropia type strabismus were 3.1-times more likely to develop a mental illness than their peers without strabismus through an average age of 20.3 years. Children with esotropia type strabismus, as noted, were no more likely than controls to develop mental illness.

"Why exotropia and not esotropia would be associated with the development of mental illness by early adulthood is unclear," Mohney and colleagues admit. "Ocular misalignment would seem to have similar effects on individuals with strabismus regardless of whether it is esotropic or exotropic."

They add that "heredity is a more likely basis for any association between exotropia and mental illness." – (Reuters Health)

SOURCE: Paediatrics November 2008.

Read more:
Strabismus or Squint

November 2008


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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