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Tortuosity of the retinal vessels—both arterial and venous—may be a dead giveaway that a young patient is suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), says I. Matthew Rabinowicz, MD, FRCS.
Another important sign of the syndrome, he says, is optic nerve hypoplasia or atrophy, sometimes found in conjunction with pallor of the optic disc.
Rabinowicz, who is chief of ophthalmology at the Children's Eye Hospital of Michigan, Kresge Eye Institute of Wayne State University, Detroit, announced these findings at the recent meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology in Chicago. They emerged from a study of 17 cases of FAS diagnosed according to standard diagnostic criteria. All except one of the children, ranging in age from 3 days to 10 years, had been born to mothers who reported a history of heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
Some of Rabinowicz's findings confirmed those of other ophthalmologists. But disc hypoplasia has been reported
González ER. New ophthalmic findings in fetal alcohol syndrome. JAMA. 1981;245(2):108. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03310270004002