Congenital Eye Diseases

Congenital eye diseases are due to abnormal formation of the eye during pregnancy. While congenital eye diseases may be caused by a mutation within a gene or exposure to drugs or alcohol during pregnancy, in many affected children there is no known cause. Congenital eye diseases can affect any part of the eye and are often associated with cloudiness of the front surface of the eye (cornea), increased eye pressure (glaucoma), irregularly shaped pupil, opacities in the lens (cataract), abnormalities of the light-detecting tissue in the back of the eye (retina) and under development of the nerve that ruins from the eye to the brain (optic nerve.) In severe cases where many eye structures are affected, there can be significant vision loss.

How are Congenital Eye Diseases Diagnosed? 

Congenital eye diseases are rare (1:5,000.) They may present at birth if the eyes have an abnormal appearance. Congenital eye diseases may also be detected later in infancy due to unusual eye movements or poor visual function. Subtle cases which have minimal to no effect on vision may not be detected until a routine eye examination.

What are the Symptoms of Congenital Eye Diseases?

Symptoms vary depending on eye structures involved and the severity of the abnormalities. In severe cases, children may have poor vision, light sensitivity and unusual eye movements,

How are Congenital Eye Diseases Treated?

There are many different types of congenital eye diseases. Eye surgery may be needed to optimize and/or preserve vision. There are many different types of surgery that may be performed depending on the eye structures involved and the severity of the abnormalities.

Recovery After Surgery

As with most eye surgeries, the effects of the anesthesia often bother children more than the surgery itself. By the time a child has recovered from the anesthesia (usually within 1 day), the eye is comfortable with minimal pain or discomfort. There are usually eye drops for the first month after surgery in order to prevent infection and promote healing.

The best possible outcome in congenital eye diseases is to optimize and preserve visual function.

The Lurie Children’s Difference

Brenda Bohnsack, MD, PhD, Division Head of Ophthalmology, is one of only a handful of experts in the diagnosis and surgical management of congenital eye diseases in the country. She has devoted her career to caring for children with congenital eye diseases and has published numerous papers that have improved outcomes for these patients.

Make an Appointment

Appointments with Dr. Bohnsack can be made by calling 1.800.KIDS.DOC or the Division of Ophthalmology (312.227.6180).