The severity of allergic conjunctivitis may cause children with the condition—and their parents—to have a lower quality of life, and this finding could be especially true in patients with vernal (VKC) or atopic keratoconjunctivitis (AKC), a recent study published in JAMA Ophthalmology suggests.

The condition is especially problematic in children and adolescents, the research team from China notes. Still, most previous research has centered on how the condition affects adults.

The case-control study enrolled 188 children and their parents. Participants included 92 children between the ages of five and 18 and their parents in the study group and 96 healthy, age-matched youth and their caretakers in the control group.

The study group was subdivided into cohorts of VKC, AKC, seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) and perennial allergic conjunctivitis (PAC). Participants responded to the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory Questionnaire (PedsQL), with scores ranging from zero to 100. Higher scores indicated better health-related quality of life and fewer negative findings.

Key findings included:

  • PedsQL scores were 27 points lower in children with AC and their parents compared with their counterparts in the control group.
  • Having VKC or AKC reduced QOL by about another four points than the mean for all study subjects..
  • In the allergic conjunctivitis group, a higher corneal fluorescein staining score was linked to a lower quality of life in children.
  • Parents whose children had higher corneal fluorescein staining scores and multiple clinical consultations reported a lower quality of life. Considering sub-scores, parents were most worried about whether their child’s treatment would be effective.
  • Parents’ scores correlated with their children’s.

Researchers reported one unexpected finding: the decreased quality of life in children with AC was worse than in previous studies of youth diagnosed with blinding diseases, such as glaucoma and congenital cataract in which the same PedsQL questionnaire was used.

The study’s results suggest a detailed assessment of quality of life may be useful to inform chronic condition care for children with AC, the investigators concluded.

Zhang SY, Li J, Liu R, et al. Association of allergic conjunctivitis with health-related quality of life in children and their parents. JAMA Ophthalmology. June 10, 2021. [Epub ahead of print].