Visual Impairment in Preschool Children in the United States

Demographic and Geographic Variations From 2015 to 2060

Visual impairment (VI) in early childhood can significantly impair the development of visual, motor, and cognitive function and lead to adverse psychosocial consequences. For example, the Vision in Preschoolers study5 reported that VI from uncorrected hyperopia was associated with deficits in early literacy and in other essential skills for school readiness. More importantly, interventions, such as spectacle correction in preschool children, have been shown to restore the visual-motor function of affected ametropic preschool children back to emmetropic levels.

RESULTS In 2015, more than 174 000 children aged 3 to 5 years in the United States were visually impaired. Almost 121 000 of these cases (69%) arose from simple uncorrected refractive error, and 43 000 (25%) from bilateral amblyopia. By 2060, the number of children aged 3 to 5 years with VI is projected to increase by 26%. In 2015, Hispanic white children accounted for the highest number of VI cases (66 000); this group will remain the most affected through 2060, with an increasingly large proportion of cases (37.7% in 2015 and 43.6% in 2060). The racial/ethnic group with the second most VI is projected to shift from non-Hispanic white children (26.3% in 2015 decreasing to 16.5% in 2060) to African American children (24.5% in 2015 and 22.0% in 2060). From 2015 to 2060, the states projected to have the most children with VI are California (26 600 in 2015 and 38 000 in 2060), Texas (21 500 in 2015 and 29 100 in 2060), and Florida (10 900 in 2015 and 13 900 in 2060).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE These data suggest that the number of preschool children with VI is projected to increase disproportionally, especially among minority populations. Vision screening for refractive error and related eye diseases may prevent a high proportion of preschool children from experiencing unnecessary VI and associated developmental delays.

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