Relationship between anisometropia, patient age, and the development of amblyopia

Am J Ophthalmol. 2006 Jul;142(1):132-140. doi: 10.1016/j.ajo.2006.02.040.


Purpose: Previous studies evaluating the effect of anisometropia on amblyopia development have been biased because subject selection occurred as a result of decreased acuity. Photoscreening identifies anisometropic children in a manner that is not biased by acuity, and allows an opportunity to evaluate how patient age influences the prevalence and depth of amblyopia.

Design: Retrospective observational study of preschool children with anisometropia.

Methods: A statewide preschool photoscreening program screened 119,311 children and identified 792 with anisometropia >1.0 diopters. We correlated age with visual acuity and amblyopia depth. Results were compared with 562 strabismic children similarly identified.

Results: Only 14% (six of 44) of anisometropic children aged 1 year or younger had amblyopia. Amblyopia was detected in 40% (32 of 80) of 2-year-olds, 65% (119 of 182) of 3-year-olds, and 76% of 5-year-olds. Amblyopia depth also increased with age. Moderate amblyopia prevalence was 2% (ages 0 to 1), 17% (age 2), and rose steadily to 45% (ages 6 to 7). Severe amblyopia was rare for children aged 0 to 3, 9% at age 4, and 14% at age 5. Children with strabismus had a relatively stable prevalence (30% ages 0 to 2; 42% ages 3 to 4; and 44% ages 5 to 7) and depth of amblyopia.

Conclusions: Younger children with anisometropia have a lower prevalence and depth of amblyopia than older children. By age 3, when most children undergo traditional screening, amblyopia has usually already developed. New vision screening technologies that allow early detection of anisometropia provide ophthalmologists an opportunity to intervene early, perhaps retarding or even preventing the development of amblyopia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Amblyopia / epidemiology
  • Amblyopia / physiopathology*
  • Anisometropia / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Ophthalmology
  • Optometry
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vision Screening / methods
  • Visual Acuity / physiology