Keep an eye on this: Latino children are more likely to have astigmatism than African-American children, according to a study published in the journal Ophthalmology and reported by Reuters Health.

For the study, researchers examined 3,000 Latino kids between the ages of 6 months and 6 years and gave them comprehensive eye exams, testing for astigmatism with an instrument that measures how light changes as it enters the eye. The condition refers to a distortion in the curve of the cornea that can blur vision.

Researchers found that 17 percent of Latino kids suffered from at least mild astigmatism and 3 percent had a significant degree of astigmatism, requiring corrective lenses. This was higher than the rates for African-American children: Only 13 percent of those study participants had mild astigmatism and only 1 percent had more severe astigmatism.

The study also found that both mild and significant astigmatism rates were high in infancy, dropped in children over 1 year old, then increased again as their eyes matured. 

While the study could not pinpoint why ethnic differences in vision exist, senior researcher Rohit Varma, MD, of the Doheny Eye Institute in Los Angeles, said it’s likely that genetic influences are involved.

Previous studies have shown that astigmatism is common among Native Americans, said Varma, and many Latino populations have Native American ancestry.

The study suggested that doctors should make testing for astigmatism in Latino children routine. Currently, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends that all children younger than 5 be screened for vision problems, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that eye evaluations be part of infants’ and preschoolers’ care.