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Maternal drug abuse puts baby's eye health at risk

In a recent retrospective study, researchers have found that children are significantly more likely be born with strabismus and nystagmus if the mother abused substances during pregnancy. The study looked at 301 children who were born to mothers who misused substances (heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, or other illicit drugs) while pregnant, and compared them to 7887 age-matched controls. In the study group, 15.3% of children had strabismus, a condition characterized by improper alignment of the eyes that typically involves a lack of coordination between the extraocular muscles. Additionally, 3.7% of these children had nystagmus, which is defined as fast, involuntary eye movements that are often referred to as “dancing eyes.” In the control group, where mothers did not abuse substances during pregnancy, only 2.8% of children had strabismus and .004% had nystagmus. This data shows that maternal substance abuse in utero is associated with a much higher prevalence of specific eye defects. Children in the study group were 5.7 times more likely to have strabismus and 90.34 times more likely to have nystagmus compared to the control group. Both of these conditions can lead to long-term vision problems. Hopefully, the results of this study will encourage a more thorough visual screening process for these high-risk children, as earlier detection of these abnormalities may allow for more successful treatment.

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