Anophthalmia means that a baby is born without 1 or both eyes. Microphthalmia means that 1 or both eyes are smaller than normal. Children born with these conditions may have some vision or may have complete vision loss. They often need to wear eye devices to make their eyes look symmetrical and help their eye sockets grow the right way.
Special devices called conformers can help children’s eye sockets grow to a normal size and shape, and prosthetic eyes can change the way children look. These devices don’t restore or correct vision, but children with microphthalmia who have vision in their smaller eye may be able to use devices they can still see light through.
Children with anophthalmia or microphthalmia may need to wear conformers (sometimes called expanders) — plastic devices that help the eye socket grow to a normal size and shape. If your child needs a conformer, an ocularist (a specialist in eye devices) will create one that fits them.
It’s important for children who need conformers to start wearing them as early as possible. Because babies grow so fast, they’ll need to change to a larger conformer every few weeks or months until their growth slows down — usually around age 2.
Once their eye socket reaches a normal size, children with anophthalmia or microphthalmia can wear a prosthetic eye — a device that’s painted to look like their other eye. Children with microphthalmia can wear a type of prosthetic called a scleral shell that fits over their smaller eye.
Children usually get their first prosthetic eye between ages 1 and 2. Then, they’ll need a new prosthetic eye every few years as they grow and the shape of their face changes. Most children will need to have their prosthetic eye replaced 3 to 4 times by age 10.
Protect your child’s vision
If your child was born with vision in only 1 eye, it’s important to protect that eye from injury — especially once they start walking.
Children can either wear regular prescription eyeglasses or safety goggles to protect their eyes. Ask your child’s doctor what type of eye protection they need.