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Eye Facts

Microphthalmia Explained

by Speckles Info 16 May 2023
Microphthalmia Explained

Microphthalmia is a condition where one or both eyes are abnormally small and underdeveloped. Due to this, the affected eye(s) may not function properly, resulting in vision problems. Let's learn more about it!

What Causes Microphthalmia?

Microphthalmia can be caused by a variety of factors including genetic abnormalities, which means a change in the child's genes affects the development of their eyes. These genetic changes can happen randomly or be inherited from parents.

Other times, microphthalmia can be caused by environmental factors, such as infections, exposure to certain drugs or chemicals during pregnancy, or a lack of proper nutrition. Sometimes, the exact cause of microphthalmia is not known.

What are the signs of Microphthalmia?

The main signs of microphthalmia include a child having smaller than normal eyes, and/or an abnormal eye shape. This is typically diagnosed at birth and may occur alongside other conditions such as a cleft lip or palate. 

It's important to note that these signs may not be noticeable to everyone and can vary from person to person. A proper diagnosis by a healthcare professional is necessary to confirm microphthalmia.

How does Microphthalmia affect vision?

Microphthalmia can have varying effects on vision depending on the severity of the condition and whether one or both eyes are affected.

Generally, the smaller and more underdeveloped the eye, the more significant the impact on vision. This is because light cannot focus accurately onto the retina, resulting in blurred or distorted vision - you can learn more about this in our blog on Hyperopia.

In some cases, microphthalmia may cause significant vision loss or even blindness in the affected eye(s), however, the extent of vision impairment varies widely among individuals. 

How is Microphthalmia treated?

Treatment depends on the severity of the condition and how much it affects the child's vision. In some cases, no treatment is required and the condition may resolve on its own over time. However, if the vision is significantly impaired, treatment options may include:

  1. Corrective lenses: If the microphthalmia has caused a significant refractive error, corrective lenses such as glasses or contacts may be prescribed to improve vision.
  2. Vision therapy: If the child has difficulty with eye movement or tracking, vision therapy may be recommended to improve these skills.
  3. Patching: If the microphthalmia only occurs in one eye, or one eye is more affected than the other, the brain may rely on the eye with the clearer vision to see. This prevents the visual pathways in the affected eye from developing and can lead to Amblyopia. To treat this, we patch the eye with clearer vision to strengthen the curious eye. You can learn more about why we patch the eye here
  4. Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be recommended to improve the appearance and function of the eyes. This can involve procedures to enlarge the eye socket, correct eye misalignment, or implant an artificial eye.

It is important to seek treatment for microphthalmia as early as possible to prevent further vision loss and to ensure the best possible outcome. Regular follow-up appointments with an ophthalmologist are also important to monitor the child's vision and ensure that any necessary interventions are provided.

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