Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are known for their wide-ranging manifestations. The diagnosis is associated with facial, bone and other physical deformities, major organ complications and even learning disabilities and other social and behavioral issues.1 The degree and amount of these complications are a gamble, but a near consistent result of exposure to alcohol in utero is ophthalmological abnormalities, according to a new study.2

The Sweden-based research team looked at 30 cases of adopted children diagnosed with FASD.2 The researchers evaluated their records from the time of their adoption (mean age 7.9 years) into adulthood, between 13 and 18 years later.2 They reviewed each subject’s visual acuity, refraction, stereoacuity, strabismus, ocular media and fundus exam.2 Most commonly, the subjects developed astigmatism.2 Defective stereoacuity was also noted frequently, appearing in 67% of the patients in childhood and, by adulthood, 73%.2 Heterotropia occurred in 40% in childhood and 43% in adulthood.2 Increased tortuosity of the retinal vessels was found in 27% in childhood and 37% in adulthood and optic nerve hypoplasia was recorded in three children and four adults.2

Median visual acuities were 20/32 OD and 20/32 OS in childhood and 20/22 OD and 20/20 OS in adulthood.2 

1. Mayo Clinic Staff. Fetal alcohol syndrome. Mayo Clinic. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fetal-alcohol-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20352901. January 10, 2018. Accessed January 13, 2020.

2. Gyllencreutz E, Aring E, Landgren V, et al. Ophthalmological findings in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders – a cohort study from childhood to adulthood. Am J Ophthalmol. January 9, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].