British heroin substitute may be associated with wide-ranging sight problems

Apr 21, 2010

Children born to mothers prescribed the heroin substitute methadone during pregnancy may be at risk of wide-ranging sight problems, indicates a small study published ahead of print in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

There may be as many as 350,000 children in the UK whose parents are problem , say the authors.

Methadone is a synthetic , which provides a longer lasting "high" than most opioids, and is much less likely to be misused.

It is usually prescribed as a substitute for heroin, and is associated with a more stable maternal lifestyle and less likelihood of stunted or preterm birth.

But most babies born to mothers, who are prescribed it during their pregnancy, have significant withdrawal symptoms, known as neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS. These symptoms are severe enough to warrant treatment in up to 80% of cases.

They assessed the eyesight of 20 children with , whose mothers had taken during the pregnancy.

Most of the children had also been exposed to either benzodiazepines (55%) or heroin (40%) while in the womb.

Virtually all the children (95%) had poor eyesight in addition to which seven out of 10 had involuntary eye movement (nystagmus), while in half vision had not yet developed fully (delayed visual maturation).

Eleven out of 12 children who had been treated for NAS had nystagmus, compared with only three out of eight whose NAS had not been severe enough to warrant treatment.

One in three (35%) also had a squint (strabismus), while a similar proportion (30%) had blurred vision or long or short sightedness problems (refractive errors). And one in four had impaired relating to sight.

One in four children also had significant developmental problems, including and cerebral palsy.

The underlying causes of the children's visual problems are unclear, say the authors, but the developing visual system is particularly sensitive to unexpected stressors before birth, they point out.

The incidence of substance misuse during pregnancy is on the rise, say the authors, citing an anonymous screening study from one UK clinic which indicated that between 11% and 16% of expectant mothers were taking at least one illicit drug during their pregnancy.

Explore further: Exposure to aluminium may have impact on male fertility

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Epilepsy drug may increase risk of autism in children

Dec 01, 2008

A new study shows that women who take the epilepsy drug valproate while pregnant may significantly increase their child's risk of developing autism. The preliminary research is published in the December 2, 2008, print issue ...

No link between antidepressants and birth defects

May 22, 2008

Expectant mothers can safely use prescribed antidepressants during their first trimester, according to a new study from the Université de Montréal and Ste. Justine Hospital published in the May edition of the British Jo ...

Italians mothers wait longer for children

Jul 30, 2007

Italian woman wait longer to have children than women in any other developed country, a report from the Bocconi University social research center said.

Recommended for you

Measures to avoid hospital readmission often don't work

33 minutes ago

(Medical Xpress)—Health care interventions designed to keep patients from having to be readmitted to the hospital are proving unsuccessful, a researcher from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and a colleague ...

Hospital acquisitions leading to increased patient costs

14 hours ago

The trend of hospitals consolidating medical groups and physician practices in an effort to improve the coordination of patient care is backfiring and increasing the cost of patient care, according to a new study led by the ...

Study examines effect of hospital switch to for-profit status

14 hours ago

Hospital conversion from nonprofit to for-profit status in the 2000s was associated with better subsequent financial health but had no relationship to the quality of care delivered, mortality rates, or the proportion of poor ...

User comments : 0