Researchers in Turkey have determined decreased retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) and choroidal thickness in malnourished children may be an important clue to preventing retinal pathologies later in life. They found that as the severity of malnutrition increased in patients, thinning did as well.           

The study examined 126 malnourished patients between the ages of five and 10 without ocular symptoms and 116 healthy children. The researchers found that RNFL and choroidal thickness measures were statistically significantly lower in all quadrants in malnourished patients. The average RNFL thickness was 96.5μm in the malnutrition group and 111.0µm in the control group. Median choroidal thickness in the foveal center was 304.0μm in the malnutrition group and 345.0μm in the control group. The study determined a positive correlation between both average RNFL thicknesses and choroidal thickness in the foveal center with weight-for-age score.

The researchers state that SD-OCT is a useful tool that provides rapid and high-resolution images that permit 3D visualization of the RNFL and choroid; thus, clinicians should use the device to screen malnourished children before ocular pathologies develop, such as optic atrophy and blindness. They are hopeful that investigating mildly malnourished children will elicit more detailed data concerning when these ocular signs are likely to appear.

Tekin M, Simsek A, Bilak S, et al. Evaluation using spectral-domain optical coherence tomography of the effects of malnutrition on ocular parameters in pediatric patients. Optom Vis Sci. 2020;97(3):154-61.