PURPOSE. Astigmatism is a very common refractive error in humans, but its etiology is poorly understood. The primary purpose of this study was to determine whether alterations in visual experience would result in astigmatism in chicks. METHODS. Longitudinal and cross-sectional data were obtained from chicks that were raised undergoing four different visual manipulations known to alter axial eye growth: form deprivation by translucent occluders, spherical defocus by -10- or + 10-D lenses, and constant light. The visual manipulations began at 5 days of age and continued for a week. Age-matched groups raised without any treatment or with Velcro rings or piano lenses served as control groups. Refractions in all birds were measured with a Hartinger refractometer, and infrared photokeratometry was performed in a subset of birds at the end of the treatment period. RESULTS. In control birds, natural astigmatism decreased in magnitude over the 7-day treatment period. In contrast, birds treated with visual manipulations developed significant amounts of astigmatism throughout the treatment period. At the end of the 7-day treatment period, whereas only 8.6% of the control chicks had refractive astigmatism >1 D, the percentage of treated birds that had astigmatism > 1 D in each treatment group ranged from 66.7% to 100%. The astigmatism in the treated eyes was predominantly against-the-rule, corneal in nature, and correlated significantly with spherical ametropia of the principal meridians. CONCLUSIONS. Visual manipulations known to induce axial ametropia also promote the genesis of astigmatism in chickens. The characteristics of astigmatism associated with spherical myopia or hyperopia in chicks is similar to those reported in humans in many respects, supporting the hypothesis that vision-dependent changes in eye growth may contribute to the astigmatism commonly found in humans.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience