Anophthalmia vs. Microphthalmia

These conditions are both birth defects that affect the eyes; however, they affect sight differently.

Here’s what you need to know about anophthalmia vs. microphthalmia.

What is anophthalmia and microphthalmia in children?

  • Anophthalmia: This condition is when a baby is born without one or both eyes.
  • Microphthalmia: This is when one of both of the eyes don’t form correctly, so they are smaller than normal.

Problems caused by anophthalmia and microphthalmia

Both of these birth defects can cause blindness or other vision problems. Babies with microphthalmia often experience other eye-related issues. These include:

  • Coloboma: This condition occurs when pieces of eye tissue are missing. The missing tissue is referred to as a coloboma. These can occur in one or both eyes and result in vision problems.
  • Cataracts: When the lens of the eye is cloudy, this is called a cataract. The lens helps focus light that enters your eye; when it’s cloudy, this causes vision problems or can cause blindness.

How common are anophthalmia and microphthalmia?

Fortunately, these conditions are rare. Only about 1 in every 5,300 babies in the United States are born with these conditions each year.

How anophthalmia and microphthalmia are treated

Babies with either of these conditions require regular care from doctors who specialize in eye treatment. Possible treatments for anophthalmia and microphthalmia include:

  • Conformers: These devices help the child’s face grow and develop correctly. A conformer is a plastic device that guides the bones of the eye socket to grow the right way. The child is fitted with new conformers as he or she grows.
  • Surgery: In some cases, a baby with anophthalmia or microphthalmia may need surgery. A doctor may perform a procedure to increase the size of the eye socket. Other potential surgeries include procedures to lengthen the eyelids or create eyelids. Other babies may benefit from surgeries that allow a conformer or artificial eye to fit better or procedures to treat cataracts.
  • Intervention services: In addition to medical procedures, babies born with anophthalmia or microphthalmia may also benefit from special services that help them develop and learn important skills. They can receive therapy to assist them in learning to walk, talk and interact with others. They can receive assistance with mobility and orientation.

Causes of anophthalmia and microphthalmia

The causes of anophthalmia and microphthalmia are not fully known, but some causes may include:

  • Chromosome mutations: Some birth defects are caused by changes in genes or chromosomes.
  • Medications: Taking certain medications during pregnancy may cause anophthalmia or microphthalmia. These medications include isotretinoin and thalidomide.
  • Infections: If a woman has certain infections during pregnancy, these may cause anophthalmia or microphthalmia in the infant. Rubella is one of the illnesses that can increase the risk for these defects.
  • Harmful substances: Exposure to radiation, pesticides, chemicals or other harmful things in the environment during pregnancy can increase the baby’s risk of anophthalmia or microphthalmia.

Find a specialist

If you have questions or concerns about anophthalmia and microphthalmia in children, contact the specialists at Hetzler Ocular Prosthetics Inc. We’ve been the area’s trusted source for eye care since 1979. Reach us today at 317-598-6298 with any questions or to schedule a free consultation.