Background: Amblyopia is the most common visual disability in children. Early treatment is thought to be more effective, and therefore factors affecting the age at presentation are important. A relationship between social deprivation and access to health care and screening services is well known. We hypothesized that social deprivation might be associated with later presentation of amblyopia, particularly of anisometropic amblyopia which depends on vision screening for referral.
Methods: Data from a historical cohort of 897 children with amblyopia, from seven UK orthoptic clinics, were used to test this hypothesis. Social deprivation was measured by the Townsend score of the ward in which the child lived.
Results: A relationship between social deprivation and age at presentation was found in children with anisometropic amblyopia even after adjusting for differences between clinics (p = 0.01) but no similar association was evident in children with amblyopia associated with strabismus. There was a difference of 22 months in the average age at presentation between children with anisometropic amblyopia in the most deprived and least deprived areas of the study.
Conclusions: If screening for anisometropic amblyopia is to be undertaken, priority should be given to screening children from areas of social deprivation.