SOURCE: Western University of Health Sciences

October 21, 2008 15:02 ET

WesternU: Children's Eye Health Is Paramount

POMONA, CA--(Marketwire - October 21, 2008) - 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 (www.westernu.edu) 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.

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