What Are the Best Treatment Options for Anophthalmia?

Anophthalmia is a birth defect in which a child is born without one or both eyes. The disorder is relatively rare, but can occur in conjunction with other birth defects.

Anophthalmia develops during pregnancy, but the causes can be difficult to trace. Medical researchers believe genetic mutations and abnormalities in chromosomes are the primary factors, but that environmental factors can also cause the condition. These factors can include various chemicals, drugs, pesticides, toxins, radiation and viruses, as well as exposure to x-rays.

At this time, research into the causes of anophthalmia is inconclusive, and the cause for a specific patient might not be evident.

Can anophthalmia be treated?

As far as treatment options for anophthalmia are concerned, they are relatively limited. One cannot create a new eye, or restore vision to a child who’s missing an eye.

However, there are treatment options available to improve the child’s appearance and to ensure proper development of the facial structure.

One of the more common treatment options for anophthalmia is fitting the child for a prosthetic eye. Not only does this improve the child’s appearance and help them feel more “normal,” but it also promotes good eye socket growth.

Newborns with the condition will require a team of eye care professionals who specialize in pediatric medicine and orbital and oculoplastic surgery (and the various prosthetic devices that accompany it). All of these specialists can provide potential treatments for the child’s particular condition and needs.

An ocular prosthetic device specialist will develop conformers, a type of plastic structure that supports healthy face and socket development. New conformers will need to be made as the child grows to support healthy growth. The child might also need expanders as well as conformers to enlarge the eye socket so prosthetic eyes can be made to fit properly.

Upon full development of the face, the specialists can make prosthetic eyes and place them in the socket. While these eyes will not restore vision, they can help the child feel more confident and less self-conscious when in public and make it easier for them to develop relationships with other children.

The conformers are clear, which will result in the socket looking black when they are in place. They are not painted to look like normal eyes because of the frequency with which they are changed—the child will change conformers every few weeks until they are around two years old. The prosthetic eyes children receive when they get older are designed to look like normal eyes, and the technology for them has come a long way.

The average child will go through three or four new painted prosthetic eyes before reaching age 10 due to the rate of growth, after which the changes will slow down.

Want to know more about treatment for anophthalmia and how you can help your child manage the condition? Reach out to our team at Hetzler Ocular Prosthetics Inc. with any questions you have about anophthalmia and how we work to provide treatment to our younger patients.