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What Is a Congenital Eye Defect?

Anatomy of the human eye.
It's important to diagnose and quickly act on cases of congenital eye defect that affect a child's vision.
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  • Written By: Nya Bruce
  • Edited By: Rachel Catherine Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 07 August 2014
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When a child is born with an eye condition it is known as a congenital eye defect. The condition can affect the development of the eyes and impair vision. Depending on the specific defect it may or may not be hereditary. In some cases it can occur as a result of infection, medications or because of an illness or disease suffered by the birth mother while pregnant. Leber's congenital amaurosis, congenital cataracts and primary congenital glaucoma are all common congenital defects.

Leber's congenital amaurosis is an inherited congenital eye defect in which a child is born without vision or with extremely poor eyesight. There are certain symptoms that can accompany this defect, such as rapid eye movement, crossed eyes or eyes that appear cloudy. In some cases the child may also have some form of mental retardation.

Congenital cataracts are another type of eye defect that occurs at birth. A cataract is defined as a clouding of the natural lens that is located in the eye. It may develop for a number of reasons, such as the mother having an infection while pregnant or as a result of her taking certain types of medications. Congenital cataracts may also be the result of other conditions, such as Down's Syndrome. In many cases, it is difficult to pinpoint the actual cause of the condition.

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Primary congenital glaucoma is a defect in which the eye's drainage system malfunctions or does not properly form. This often causes increased pressure in the eye because the fluid that would normal use the drainage system cannot drain and builds up as a result. When this occurs for a long period of time it may cause damage to the nerve that carries information from the eye to the brain. If this nerve, called the optic nerve is damaged, it may result in blindness or some loss of eyesight. Some of the common signs that a baby has this condition are light sensitivity, hazy corneas, tearing, and enlarged eyes.

If a congenital eye defect causes a loss of eyesight, this loss may occur immediately or after months or even years. It is important to discover congenital eye defects as quickly as possible. While not all defects can be improved, early detection and treatment may save the child's vision.

Not every congenital eye defect leads to blindness. Heterochromia is a congenital defect in which one eye is a different color than the other. While it may occur as a result of other conditions, it is frequently non-problematic and the eyes often function properly. Congenital ptosis, or drooping eyelids, is also a condition that does not always have a negative effect on eyesight, although it may indicate other problems with the eyes or health.

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