We all recognise that people with Down Syndrome have different shaped eyes this is because their eyelids have formed differently and children and adults with Down Syndrome have specific eye care needs.
People with Down Syndrome are more prone to problems with the health of their eyelids such as cysts, styes and blepharitis, where the eyelid margins become red and flaky.
People with Down Syndrome are also more prone to getting an eye condition called keratoconus and are likely to get cataract earlier.
Approximately 60% of children with Down Syndrome require glasses.
Up to 50% of people with Down Syndrome have a squint or a turn in the eye.
It is also known that individuals with Down Syndrome are prone to higher spectacle prescriptions and often require stronger glasses.
Individuals with Down Syndrome are known to have poor muscle tone and this can make it more difficult for them to focus up close.
How often should someone have an eye examination?
All of the above means that ALL individuals with Down Syndrome should have a thorough eye examination with an optometrist who is aware of the specific needs of individuals with Down Syndrome at least every 2 years and in some cases more frequently.
How we asses vision?
We are often asked how we assess the vision of someone who has communication difficulties, or how do we know how well they can see when they can’t tell us!
We use special charts and tests which are designed for working with children and adults with intellectual difficulties. Some people with Down Syndrome can tell us what they can see for those who can’t we can use shapes, matching games, and pictures of varying contrast.
The optometrists determines what power of glasses are needed using a retinoscope, which is a special light shone into the eyes.
Eyedrops are sometimes necessary to stop the eyes from focusing, this allows the optometrists to determine what power of glasses the individual needs. We can determine whether a person is short sighted, longsighted or has astigmatism or if they have problems focusing up close.
It is thought that 70% of people with Down Syndrome have difficulty with reading because they cannot focus up close, when individuals have difficulty focusing up close we can prescribe special glasses including bifocals.
People with Down Syndrome often have reduced contrast sensitivity, which means they find it harder to see things that have poor contrast. Therefore it is important to use a heavy dark pen or pencil on a white background when reading and writing as opposed to coloured pens or paper.
It is also important to note that people with Down Syndrome often don’t see as well as other people, no matter how good their glasses are they may not achieve perfect vision.
Glasses for people with Down Syndrome
Individuals with Down Syndrome tend to have small noses and a flat bridge and the distance between their eyes and their ears is shorter often regular glasses don’t fit properly. This causes the glasses to slide down the nose or fall forward. This can be annoying and uncomfortable as well as effecting how well the glasses work.
Spectacle frames often need to be modified to fit individuals with Down Syndrome properly.
Ailbhe the optometrist has received specialised training in assessing the eye care needs of individuals with Down Syndrome with the renowned Down Syndrome eye care specialist Dr. Kathryn Saunders at the University of Ulster.
All our lens and frame experts are aware of the specific needs of adults and children’s with Down Syndrome and our technicians are skilled in the individualised fitting of frames and are happy to carry out any modifications to ensure each frame is customised to the individuals facial features and needs.
It doesn’t take a lot to get it right but it can make an immeasurable difference to the children and adults wearing the glasses!
If you have any specific questions or queries please feel free to contact the practice where we will be happy to address them.