Facts About Anophthalmia

What would you think when your doctor tells you that there will be no light in the eyes of your child? What would happen if this was not just some abstract thought but something real-life for you or someone close to you? 


This could mean only one thing – your baby will have a serious problem with his vision. And it doesn’t end here as many other difficulties may also arise, such as blindness, poor sight, facial deformities, and even deafness. It is said that 1 out of every 5,200 babies in the USA suffers from this condition called “Anophthalmia.” 


But thankfully, most people who suffer from this disease live longer than average. Let us look at these symptoms of anophthalmia and learn more in detail about them.


What is anophthalmia


This disorder affects the eye of a baby. The term comes from the Greek language meaning ‘no eyelids’. Anophthalmia occurs due to a lack of eyeballs. It happens either due to genetics or due to certain medicine consumption by the mother during pregnancy time. CDC has pretty good description when it comes to defining anophthalmia.


In order to understand better what happens during the development of an embryo into a full-grown person, let’s take a look at its stages. During the fourth week after fertilization, the cells begin dividing and grow to form three layers, namely ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm. 


At this stage, the inner layer known as the endoderm gets divided into two sections, the cephalic section, and caudal section. Now the head region forms the roof while the tail region becomes the floor. By now, there should be a little ball formed inside each section called Spemann Hensen Nucleus. These nuclei secrete proteins within themselves which then get transported through blood vessels towards the outer layer known as the epidermis. 


Once the proteins reach the skin surface, they start producing melanin pigment. Melanocytes create dendrites that produce nerve fibers, connective tissues, and hair follicles. 


When the nervous system develops later on, it sends signals to the developing eyes via nerves. Hence, without any proper functioning of the nervous system, the formation of the optic cup does not occur properly, resulting in the absence of an eyeball. Moreover, since the nervous system controls the muscles responsible for blinking, tears, etc., without them, the chances of blindness increase manifold. 


What To Do If My Baby Has Anophthalmia


If you receive news like this about your unborn fetus’ future health, you might feel worried and anxious. It’s normal to be worried! After all, this is a very critical issue you’re dealing with. If you wish to give your newborn a good chance at life, you need to make sure he receives medical care immediately following delivery. 


Your newborn must see a pediatrician right away because he needs to undergo tests to determine whether he has been diagnosed correctly or not. He may also require specialized treatment depending upon his specific case. 


Some treatments include laser surgery, cranioplasty, cataract removal, and others.


As already discussed above, one major symptom of this disorder is the complete absence of eyeballs. Therefore, early detection and management of this disorder are vital. To help doctors diagnose anophthalmia quickly, patients are asked to bring along photographs of their family members. 


Doctors use special software to analyze pictures based on features of both mother and father. Since both parents carry half genes, there is a possibility of the occurrence of genetic disorders too. Having this knowledge beforehand helps physicians decide accordingly and gives hope of living long enough to see her or his own grandkids.


How can we solve anophthalmia?


Now that you’ve understood the basics of the disorder, you may want to know how this problem can be solved. There are several ways and options available to treat anophthalmic individuals. 


Surgeons usually perform complex operations to treat different types of conditions associated with anophthalmia, such as enlarging the baby’s eye socket. Another possible surgery is cataract surgery. Despite being expensive, this procedure works well in restoring the patient’s vision.


With the advancements occurring day by day, scientists continue working hard to find effective solutions to problems related to this disorder. Hopefully, one day these issues will become history. Until then, stay informed and keep yourself updated regarding the latest developments happening around you. You’ll never know if one day your child (or future child) will ever need it.