Sight-Threatening Ocular Diseases Remain Underdiagnosed Among Children Of Less Affluent Families
Author: Joshua D. Stein, Chris Andrews, David C. Musch, Carmen Green, Paul P. Lee
Sight-threatening eye diseases such as strabismus (misaligned eyes) and amblyopia (lazy eye) develop during childhood. The earlier in life these diseases are diagnosed and effectively treated, the greater the chance of preventing irreversible long-term sight loss. Using 2001–14 claims data for nearly 900,000 US children with health insurance, we followed a cohort for up to fourteen years from birth, to assess whether household net worth affected rates of visits to ophthalmologists and optometrists or rates of diagnoses of strabismus and amblyopia. We found considerably lower use of eye care services among children in less affluent families than among those in more affluent ones, resulting in estimates of nearly 13,000 missed strabismus diagnoses and over 5,000 missed amblyopia diagnoses in a ten-year period. Despite ongoing efforts to improve screening rates for serious childhood ocular disorders, more attention should be directed to overcoming economic barriers that keep children from obtaining necessary eye care services.