Hypertelorism is a formal term which refers to an abnormally large distance between two paired organs. Most commonly, this term is used in reference to ocular hypertelorism, in which the eyes are unusually far apart. People who exhibit this condition are usually diagnosed shortly after birth or as they begin to develop because the unusual distance is often quite evident. There are a number of options available for addressing the issue.
It is important to note that hypertelorism in itself is not necessarily harmful for the patient. However, it is often associated with genetic conditions which may be harmful or dangerous. The condition may be linked with other unusual physical characteristics as well as developmental delays which can contribute to developmental and intellectual disabilities. Widely spaced eyes can be seen with a number of genetic conditions and they may also be the result of skull anomalies such as distortions in shape caused by premature closure of the cranial sutures.
Hypertelorism is often treated because it may make a patient more comfortable socially and to address any ill effects which the patient might be experiencing, such as distortions in vision. The treatment for this condition is surgery, preferably performed while a child is relatively young. Younger children recover more quickly from surgery, and early intervention allows a surgeon to minimize scarring and other problems.
When a surgeon corrects the condition, other anomalies may be treated at the same time. For example, a child with wideset eyes might also have nasal abnormalities which can be corrected while the child is in surgery. In the surgery, the surgeon can reshape the orbits of the eyes, move the eyes closer together, and address any eccentricities in skull shape which might be associated with the hypertelorism.
When a physician identifies hypertelorism in a patient, if the cause is not known, it should be determined. This can dictate which course of treatment would be most appropriate and it can also be used to provide other interventions which the child might benefit from. Since surgery often must take place before a child can take an active role in making medical decisions, parents or guardians should talk about the surgery with a surgeon to fully understand the benefits, risks, and purpose of the surgery so that they can make an informed choice on behalf of the patient. Second opinions can also be helpful for people who are making a decision about surgery.