Ocular abnormalities in the fetal alcohol syndrome

Acta Ophthalmol Suppl (1985). 1985;171:1-50.


Thirty children suffering from the fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) were compared with 22 matched controls regarding malformations of the eyes and the visual function. All mothers to the FAS children had a documented abuse of alcohol during pregnancy. It was not possible to get reliable, detailed data on drinking habits, nor could it be ruled out that some mothers might have used psychopharmaceutic drugs during periods of the pregnancy. Defects of the outer eye region, or intraocular abnormalities, or both, were found in 27 FAS children (90%). Anomalies of the outer region like ptosis and strabismus were frequently found in the FAS children but were not common in the controls. Abnormalities in the anterior segments and media were found in six eyes. Malformations of the fundus were the most frequently occurring abnormalities in the FAS children. Forty-eight per cent of the eyes showed hypoplasia of the optic nervehead and 49% had an abnormal tortuosity of the retinal arteries. These variables were studied quantitatively by a new photogrammetric method. There were serious consequences to the vision of the FAS children. Nineteen per cent of the eyes has a visual acuity of 0.2 (20/100) or less, and 46% had 0.3-0.6 (20/60-20/30). Almost all controls had normal vision. As maternal alcohol abuse during pregnancy was the only variable which could be traced in every case of FAS, it is appears very likely that alcohol caused the abnormalities of the eyes, possibly through non-specific, intra-uterine growth retardation. It that were the case, ocular abnormalities should be common in children with non-FAS growth retardation. A control study did not support this possibility.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Multiple / etiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blepharoptosis / etiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Eye Abnormalities*
  • Face / abnormalities
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / complications*
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / complications
  • Fluorescein Angiography
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Myopia / etiology
  • Optic Nerve / abnormalities
  • Photogrammetry
  • Pregnancy
  • Refraction, Ocular
  • Retinal Vessels / abnormalities
  • Strabismus / etiology
  • Visual Acuity