Smoking During Pregnancy Can Increase a Baby's Risk of Strabismus
During pregnancy an infant’s body is growing and developing at an astounding rate. Many factors and influences during this critical developmental time can impact a baby’s overall health. It is commonly known that smoking is not good for babies during pregnancy. It can cause many developmental problems including vision problems. Smoking during pregnancy increases a baby’s risk for being born with strabismus or crossed eyes.
What is Strabismus?
Strabismus is a term that is commonly used to describe several different eye conditions that result in the eyes appearing cross eyed. In fact there are as many as 30 different muscle and nerve conditions that can result in being diagnosed with strabismus. This condition results when the eyes are unable to line up and focus on a singular image. It is surprisingly common and affects as many as 2-3% of children. Some estimates indicate that up to 5% of children have some level of this condition. Strabismus will not cure itself and requires treatment.
Smoking and an Increased Risk of Strabismus
In a recent study published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology more than 1,300 cases of strabismus were studied. Researchers took their information from the Danish National Birth Cohort which is a survey of moms and babies in Denmark. The researchers analyzed information provided by the mothers of the children with strabismus.
They found that mothers that smoked during pregnancy had a 26% greater chance of having a baby with strabismus than mothers that did not smoke during pregnancy. Researchers also found that the number of cigarettes smoked further increased the risk of babies having this visual problem. For example women that smoked between five and nine cigarettes had a 38% greater risk of having a baby with strabismus than non-smokers while mothers that smoked 10 or more cigarettes had a 90% greater risk. As you can see the more cigarettes a mother smokes, the greater the child’s risk of being cross eyed.
Researchers estimate that each additional daily cigarette led to a 5% increased risk of having a baby with crossed eyes. This shows how important it is to cut out cigarettes during pregnancy, or to reduce the number smoked if quitting isn’t a possibility.
Other In-Utero Factors that Can Increase Strabismus Risk
Little is known about the causes of strabismus in newborns. In addition to smoking researchers in this study also found that drinking alcohol during pregnancy led to a slightly elevated risk of strabismus. Tea, coffee and caffeine consumption did not result in an increased risk for this condition.
If a child is has strabismus quick treatment is essential. Being cross eyed can result in double vision which can eventually lead to the brain suppressing the image of one eye and can lead to vision loss, lazy eye and other conditions. The earlier strabismus treatment begins the better the chances of reversing the condition and avoiding compounding the visual problems. By the time the child reaches seven years of age the odds of being able to restore full vision are very slim.
Treatment for strabismus will vary depending on the cause of the condition. Let’s examine a few of the more popular treatment options in more depth.
Glasses may be an easy solution for children that only have a slight misalignment. Some children may need special lenses, bifocals or a combination of glasses and eye drops.
Prescription Drug Treatment
Prescription eye drops are another common component in treating strabismus. These eye drops may help to relax the muscles in the eye or may slightly blur vision to help the weaker eye develop more strength. Eye drops to blur the vision of the good eye are commonly used in cases where lazy eye has developed.
Surgery is generally the only way to correct strabismus and realign the eyes. As the surgery is performed various muscles in the eye are shortened or lengthened which can allow the eyes to realign. Multiple surgeries are often needed and glasses are commonly worn post-surgery. Early treatment is essential and infants and toddlers commonly undergo this procedure.
As you prepare to bring a child into the world you have a great opportunity to help them have the best start possible. Smoking can lead to an increased risk of strabismus as well as an increased risk for other health conditions and problems. Quitting smoking during pregnancy is the best way to ensure that your child will have best vision and health possible.
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