Methadone Babies at Risk of Eye Problems

GLASGOW, Scotland, April 27 (UPI) — British researchers found vision problems in 95 percent of children born to mothers given methadone while pregnant.

Methadone is a synthetic opioid less likely to be misused and often prescribed as a heroin substitute to allow a more stable maternal lifestyle and decrease the likelihood of poor fetal growth or preterm birth. Researchers said it still causes the babies to have significant withdrawal symptoms that need to be treated in up to 80 percent of cases.


Dr. Ruth Hamilton of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow and colleagues looked at the eyesight of 20 children with vision problems whose mothers had taken methadone during pregnancy, and found involuntary eye movement in 11 out of 12 children treated for withdrawal symptoms — vs. three out of eight children whose withdrawal symptoms did not warrant treatment.

The study, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, found one in three children had a squint and a similar proportion had blurred vision or farsightedness or nearsightedness problems and one in four had impaired brain function relating to sight.

The underlying causes of the eye problems were unclear, the researchers said in a statement, but they noted the developing visual system is particularly sensitive to unexpected stressors before birth.

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