More and more we are discovering that prenatal health is important in normal human development. Retinopathy of prematurity is a debilitating condition that permanently effects the sight of a new born.

This is an interesting study looking at the link between low birth weight and the development of refractive errors which was published in Br J Ophthalmol. 2006 Apr;90(4):456-60, the authors were O’Connor AR, Stephenson TJ, Johnson A, Tobin MJ, Ratib S, Fielder AR.


To determine the refractive status and ocular dimensions of a cohort of children at age 10-12 years with birth weight below 1701 g, and also the relation between the neonatal ophthalmic findings and subsequent refractive state.


293 low birth weight children who had been examined in the neonatal period were assessed at 10-12 years of age. The examination consisted of autorefraction, keratometry, and A-scan. Results of right eyes were compared with published normative data.


293 of the birth cohort of 572 children consented to participate. The average mean spherical equivalent (MSE) in the low birth weight cohort was +0.691 dioptre, significantly higher than the control data (+0.30D, p = 0.02). The average change in MSE over the 10-12 year period was -1.00 diopter (n = 256), but only 62.1% of cases showed a shift in refractive error of the appropriate magnitude and direction. The presence of any retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) increases the risk of developing anisometropia sixfold.


Low birth weight and ROP both significantly impact the refractive state in the long term. At age 10-12 years children born preterm have an increased prevalence of all refractive errors. In low birth weight children refractive state is relatively stable over the first decade of life with a shift towards myopia of 1 diopter.