Selected Anomalies and Diseases of the Eye

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Selected Anomalies and Diseases
of the Eye

Compiled by
Virginia E. Bishop, Ph.D.



This collection of eye diseases and anomalies was prepared for the Teacher of the Visually Impaired, who may need a rapid reference for consultative and interpretive purposes.

Most of the conditions will be found in school age or preschool children and youth. A few exceptions were included, since they occur commonly in the visually impaired population (e.g., diabetic retinopathy, presbyopia).

Every effort has been made to be accurate, concise and objective, however, it is recognized that there may be a variety of opinions among educators and eye specialists (particularly concerning treatment implications). Each visually impaired individual is unique, and should be viewed as such; treatments and educational considerations must be designed to meet individual needs.

This Manual should not be considered a complete information guide. There is no substitute for a detailed ophthalmological textbook, and every Teacher of the Visually Impaired should own at least one. A reference list is included at the end.

Since medical technology and knowledge is constantly being expanded, several blank pages have been included in the back of this Manual. The user is encouraged to add notes or references as needed.

It is hoped that this Manual will serve the needs of Teachers of the Visually Impaired as it was intended. These persons are often the facilitators of success for visually impaired children and youth, and have historically been liaison agents between educators and the eye care professions. Perhaps this Manual will enhance those functions.


Table of Contents

Albinism 1

Amblyopia 2

Aniridia 3

Aphakia 4

Astigmatism 45

Blepharitis 5

Buphthalmos 6

Cataract 7

CHARGE Association 49

Chorioretinitis 8

Coloboma 9

Color deficiency 10

Corneal scarring 11

Cortical blindness 12

Diabetic retinopathy 13

Dislocated lens 14

Enucleation 15

Esophoria, Esotropia 44

Exophoria, Exotropia 44

Glaucoma 16

Hemianopsia 17

Histoplasmosis 18

Hordeolum 19

Hyperopia 45

Hyperphoria, Hypertropia 44

Hyporphoria, Hypotropia 44

Keratitis 20

Keratoconus 21

Macular degeneration 22

Microphthalmus 23

Muscle imbalances 44

Myopia 45

Nystagmus 24

Optic atrophy 25

Papillitis 27

Photophobia 28

Presbyopia 45

Ptosis 29

R.L.F./R.O.P. 35

Refractive errors 45

Retinal degeneration 30

Retinal detachment 31

Retinitis Pigmentosa 32

Retinoblastoma: 33

Retinoschisis 34

Rubella 36

Scotoma 37

Strabismus 44

Sympathetic ophthalmia 38

Syndromes 47

Toxoplasmosis 39

Trachoma 40

Tumors 41

Uveitis 42

Wounds 43

References 53

Additional Resources 54



A hereditary deficiency of pigmentation, which may involve the entire body (complete albinism) or a part of the body (incomplete albinism); believed to be caused by an enzyme deficiency involving the metabolism of melanin during prenatal development; inherited as an autosomal dominant or recessive trait; in the X-linked type, ocular albinism is only visible ophthalmologically in the female carrier; in complete albinism, there is usually lack of pigmentation in skin and hair, as well as in retinal & iris tissue; in incomplete albinism, skin and hair may vary from pale to normal; in ocular albinism, function may vary from normal to impaired. Impairments may involve the retina (especially the macula) and iris; photophobia, nystagmus, and refractive errors are typical. If acuity is decreased, it commonly ranges between 20/70 and 20/200. Visual fields are variable; color vision is usually normal. Prognosis: non-progressive.


Optical correction of refractive errors; tinted or pinhole contact lenses; absorptive lenses; optical aids; lowered illumination if needed; genetic counseling recommended.


Adjust illumination to conditions and individual (i.e., control glare via seating and/or tinted lenses; use sunglasses and/or hat with visor outdoors). Classroom seating should be appropriate to the corrected refractive error and photophobia. Should be evaluated for low vision aids. Genetic implications should be noted.



(also known as "amblyopia ex anopsia," which is dimness of vision from disuse). In the absence of organic eye disease, reduced visual acuity in one eye (uncorrectable with lenses) due to cortical suppression; commonly caused by strabismus or by unequal refractive errors, but may also be caused by opacities of the lens or cornea. In strabismus, the image from the deviating eye is suppressed; fusion is lost, as is depth perception. If treatment is not instituted early, vision fails to develop in the deviating eye, and cannot be regained. In older children (over about 8 years of age), amblyopia may be untreatable. (see also Strabismus)


Optical correction of refractive errors; occlusion ("patching") and/or orthoptics (eye exercises); surgery to straighten eyes. (Peak age for strabismus surgery success is age 2. Chances for improvement of acuity decrease until approximately age 8, after which acuity improvement is unlikely.)


Early detection and treatment is essential if acuity is to be developed and maintained. Lighting according to individual needs. If amplyopia is untreatable (as in an older child), classroom seating should favor the functional eye.



Rare, congenital absence or partial absence of the iris; genetically caused by an autosomal dominant or recessive hereditary pattern. Often, the iris is vestigal (little more than a margin is present) and the eye appears to have no color (only a larger than normal pupil). Other deformities of the anterior chamber are also often present (e.g., cataract), and glaucoma frequently develops before adolescence. There is usually decreased acuity (circa 20/200), photophobia, possible nystagmus, cataracts, displaced lens, and underdeveloped retina; visual fields are usually normal, unless glaucoma develops.


Pinhole contact lenses; tinted lenses and/or sunglasses; corrections for refractive errors; optical aids; lower illumination levels to control glare. If glaucoma develops (and regular monitoring for this is essential), medical and/or surgical treatment (i.e., goniotomy or trabeculotomy) may help, but long-term prognosis is poor.


Control glare through lenses or illumination level. Magnification may be helpful. Genetic counseling is indicated.



Absence of the lens, due to surgical removal, perforating wound or ulcer, or congenital anomaly; causes a loss of accommodation, hyperopia, and a deep anterior chamber. Complications include detachment of the vitreous or retina, and glaucoma.


Strong convex lens prescription, in glasses or possibly contact lenses.


Good illumination, but avoid glare and excessive light; seating away from windows; good contrast in printed materials.

There is currently some controversy over the use of "black light" with aphakic children. Ultra-violet light is thought to be absorbed by the lens, thus protecting the retina from exposure. When there is no lens to perform this function, the retina is exposed and may be damaged. Precautionary measures suggest that the use of "black light" with any child should be limited, and that care should be taken to shield the light source from the eyes (i.e., do not allow the child to look directly into the light source).



A common, chronic, bilateral inflammation of the lid margins; may be staphylococcal (ulcerative) or seborrheic (non-ulcerative), or a combination of the two; may run a chronic course over a period of months or years if not treated adequately. The seborrheic type is associated with dandruff. Symptoms are itching, burning, irritation, and scaly appearance of the lid margins. Conjunctivitis, mild keratitis, chalazions and hordeola may be complications.


Scalp, eyebrows, and lid margins must be kept clean and scales removed daily. Antibiotics or sulfonamide ointments are possible medications.


Good personal hygiene and immediate/adequate medical care are essential for the prevention and treatment.



Infantile glaucoma, caused by abnormal development of the angle formed by cornea and iris; Schlemm's Canal is usually collapsed; onset at birth or before age 3 (over 80% of cases are evident by 3 months of age); usually an autosomal recessive trait. Symptoms are excessive tearing, photophobia, increased intraocular pressure, and cupping of the optic disk. The eyes usually appear abnormally large; corneal haze is not uncommon. In untreated cases, blindness occurs early. The earlier the defect appears, the less favorable the prognosis. Long-term visual prognosis is fair. Depending on when treatment is instituted, there may be lowered acuity or restricted visual fields. Must be treated surgically (goniotomy, trabeculotomy, or trabeculectomy).


Surgical treatment, at the earliest possible time, is essential if vision is to be saved.


If visual fields are restricted, Orientation and Mobility instruction is indicated.



A clouding or opacity of the lens, believed to be caused by chemical changes in the lenticular structure/material. Etiology includes: hereditary, congenital anomalies associated with disease or syndrome; infection, severe malnutrition, or drugs during pregnancy; systemic disease (e.g., diabetes); trauma (e.g., head injury or puncture wound); normal manifestation of old age. May be congenital, senile, or traumatic. Symptoms include whitish appearance of the pupil and blurred vision/decreased acuity (especially at distance). The congenital type may also include nystagmus, squint, photophobia; traumatic cataract symptoms include general redness and irritation of the eye, and may be complicated by infection, uveitis, retinal detachment, and glaucoma.


There is no medical treatment -- only surgical. Congenital cataracts (not caused by rubella) should be removed within the first few months of life if acuity is to develop normally; contact lenses or glasses provide the accommodative power of the missing lens. (Depending on the type of surgery, secondary cataracts sometimes reappear, and repeat surgery is necessary.) Senile cataract removal is followed by one or more of the following: cataract glasses, contact lenses, or intraocular lens implant. Complications of cataract surgery include vitreous and/or retinal detachments and glaucoma.


Variable lighting to reduce glare in persons with unoperated cataracts. Lighting should be from behind to reduce glare.

Note: Children with cataracts caused by maternal rubella usually do not have surgery until at least age 2, since the live virus is present in ocular tissues many months after birth. Such children have less favorable prognoses for good acuity following surgery, since the period for retinal stimulation has passed.

Genetic counseling may be indicated.

Educational note: A child with a central, unoperated cataract may have some unusual head positions; these should be tolerated, since the child is essentially "looking around the cataract."

Magnification is helpful in some cases



A type of posterior uveitis, almost always affecting the retina; usually follows an active microbial invasion of the tissues by a causative organism which is rarely recovered (definite etiological diagnosis is seldom possible); generally classified as granulomatous. The onset may be in utero when caused by the Toxoplasma gondii, probably the most common cause (see Toxoplasmosis) . If granulomatous uveitis is acquired, the onset is insidious: vision gradually becomes blurred, pain is minimal, mild photophobia is present, and the pupil is often constricted and/or irregular in shape. Fresh lesions seen through the ophthalmoscope appear as yellowish-white patches through a hazy vitreous. As healing occurs, the vitreous clears and pigmentation appears at the edges of the lesions. In the healed stage, there is considerable pigmentation (i.e., "scars") and scotomas occur where the lesions are located; these healed areas usually do not result in significant visual loss. If the macula has not been involved, recovery of central vision is complete. The disease can last months to years, sometimes with remissions and exacerbations, and is capable of causing permanent damage with marked visual loss.


Must be treated medically, usually with anti-infective agents and systemic corticosteroids. Although organisms responsible for toxoplasmosis and tuberculosis (both possible causes of chorioretinitis) may be activated by corticosteroids, they are given as a calculated risk to control the inflammatory response when vision is threatened.

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