Researchers hope to improve vision for individuals with Down syndrome

Researchers hope to improve vision for individuals with Down syndrome

Researchers at the University of Houston College of Optometry (UHCO) are investigating new computer-simulated prescribing strategies that may lead to improved vision for individuals with Down syndrome.

"[This research] has the potential to reduce visual barriers to independence."

The UHCO research team has received a $1.67 million grant from the National Eye Institute to conduct their study.

Heather Anderson, O.D., Ph.D., assistant professor at UCHO and the study's principal investigator, says her team was inspired by the recent finding that people with Down syndrome have increased levels of distortions in the optics of their eyes. She and her colleagues believe that these distortions may lead to poorer visual acuity with current glasses prescribing methods, when compared with patients who have fewer distortions.

The study will involve comparing the performance of clinically derived prescriptions by an experienced clinician with computationally derived prescriptions that take into account the optical distortions of the eye.

Dr. Anderson says these strategies could ultimately be incorporated into instruments used to measure the optical distortions of the eye, which would bring this treatment strategy directly to eye care professionals. She adds that though the project is in its early stages and may not yield the results they anticipate, progress will be made.

"As with any research, our ideas may not come to fruition the way we expect, but there is no doubt that we will learn more about the visual experience of individuals with Down syndrome through the process," says Dr. Anderson. "Ultimately, that will help us as we move forward to try to optimize their vision."

Impact on both individuals with Down syndrome and optometry
Down syndrome is a genetic condition that alters development, according to the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS).

Approximately 400,000 Americans have Down syndrome and 6,000 babies are born with the condition each year, making it the most common genetic condition.

Individuals with Down syndrome experience cognitive delays, and some also have other complications such as auditory, language and visual deficits.

Dr. Anderson hopes her research will optimize visual quality for people with Down syndrome and improve their ability to perform daily living tasks.

"Ultimately, as the average lifespan of individuals with Down syndrome gets longer and this group starts to outlive their support structure (i.e., parents), it will become increasingly important to maximize their independence. So the work is important in that it has the potential to reduce visual barriers to independence," says Dr. Anderson.

In addition to improving quality of life, this research also could change the way ODs communicate with and prescribe glasses for individuals with Down syndrome.

"It is our hope that by developing computational strategies to prescribe for this population, we will reduce the amount of patient input required to identify an optimum prescription and, in so doing, give the practitioners new tools that may increase access to care for this population," says Dr. Anderson.

March 12, 2015

comments powered by Disqus