WesternU: Children’s Eye Health Is Paramount

The National Institutes
of Health’s announcement that a more effective treatment has been
found for a common childhood eye muscle coordination problem
underscores the importance of continued research of eye-related
conditions and the need to fully address children’s eye-care needs,
Western University of Health Sciences officials said.

“This latest research now gives us an evidence-based approach to help
children who have been affected by vision problems that could impact
their academic performance,” said Dr. Elizabeth Hoppe, founding dean
of WesternU’s College of Optometry. “WesternU will incorporate the
cutting-edge research into its curriculum and patient care services.”

Nearly 7% of U.S. children under the age of 18 have a diagnosed eye
or vision condition. Excluding conjunctivitis — commonly called
pinkeye — the four most common conditions are refractive disorders,
potentially blinding disorders, trauma or injury.

A recent survey of nearly 4,000 Americans by VSP Vision Care also
revealed that 76% of children under the age of 5 never have received a
comprehensive eye exam.

NIH’s announcement addressed treatment for convergence insufficiency,
commonly known as CI. For words on a page to appear in focus, a
child’s eyes must turn inward, or converge. In CI, the eyes do not
converge easily, and additional muscular effort must be used.

Most eye-care professionals treat children diagnosed with CI with
some form of home-based therapy, but a new study concludes that
office-based treatment by a trained therapist, along with at-home
reinforcement, is more effective. The study was funded by the
National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The 12-week study found that about 75 percent of those who received
in-office therapy plus at-home treatment reported fewer and less
severe symptoms related to reading and other near work. Symptoms of CI
include loss of place, loss of concentration, reading slowly,
eyestrain, headaches, blurry vision, and double vision.

After 12 weeks of treatment, nearly 75 percent of children who were
given the office-based vision therapy along with at-home reinforcement
achieved normal vision or had significantly fewer symptoms of CI. Only
43 percent of patients who completed home-based therapy alone showed
similar results.

“The results underscore the value of participating in clinical
treatment under care in the optometrist’s office,” Dr. Hoppe said.

The University in 2010 will help host the 6th International Congress
of Behavioral Optomtery, which will be held April 6-11, 2010, in
Pomona and Ontario, Calif. The Congress will include the 19th annual
Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association (NORA) International
Multi-Disciplinary Conference.

WesternU’s Patient Care Center also will begin offering office-based
vision therapy in early 2010.

Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona,
Calif., is an independent nonprofit health professions university,
conferring degrees in health sciences, nursing, osteopathic medicine,
pharmacy, physical therapy, physician assistant studies and veterinary
medicine. In 2009, the university will admit students to new degree
programs in dentistry, optometry, podiatry and biomedical sciences.

Jeff Keating
Western University of Health Sciences