Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), a disorder that is indicated by distinct facial characteristics, growth retardation, and poor intellectual and attentional function, can occur when mothers drink alcohol heavily during pregnancy. A new study in the October issue of The Journal of Pediatrics shows that prenatal alcohol exposure can also affect an infants visual acuity or sharpness of vision.
Sandra W. Jacobson, Ph.D. and colleagues from Wayne State University and University of Cape Town evaluated 131 infants of mixed ancestry in Cape Town, South Africa. After interviewing each mother to ascertain her alcohol consumption during pregnancy, the authors tested the visual acuity of the infants at 6 ½ months of age using the Teller Acuity Cards (TAC) Test, which is comprised of gray cards with a concentration of vertical black and white stripes on the left or the right side. An examiner looked through a peephole in the center of the card to determine where the infant was looking. Poor visual acuity was indicated when the infant was not looking at the side containing the lines.
Of the infants examined, 22 met the criteria for being diagnosed with FAS, and their visual acuity was significantly poorer than those without FAS. 27% of the infants with FAS scored below the fifth percentile, as opposed to the 9% of the infants without FAS. However, half of the infants with low TAC scores who did not meet the criteria for full FAS were born to mothers who reported binge drinking (greater than 5 drinks per occasion) during pregnancy.
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