Numerous studies have reported an increased risk of refractive errors in prematurely born infants, but only few have been long term and strictly population based.Methods
A 3.5 year ophthalmological long term follow up of 248 preterm infants was performed. The infants had been included in a previous epidemiological study of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) (birth weight ≤ 1500 grams). The incidence of refractive errors and development of refraction were studied, based on retinoscopies at 6 and 30 months of corrected age.Results
The overall incidence of myopia was 8% at 6 months, of which 35% was transient, and 10% at 30 months. Of the cryotreated infants, 30-40% were myopic at both retinoscopies. The incidence of astigmatism was 52% at 6 months and 26% at 30 months. Astigmatism was associated with ROP, but not with cryotreated ROP itself. Astigmatism "against the rule" was commoner than astigmatism "with the rule". Anisometropia occurred in 6.5% of the infants at 6 months and in 8.4% at 30 months. The incidence of anisometropia was higher in eyes with ROP, particularly in cryotreated eyes, which tended to have high and persistent anisometropia.Conclusion
The risk of refractive errors is higher in preterm infants than in infants born at term, and also prematurely born infants without ROP do run an increased risk of having myopia and anisometropia. We recommend follow up examinations with retinoscopy for all infants included in screening programmes for ROP.