How does Down Syndrome Affect Vision and the Eyes?

by May 10, 2021Eye Disease, Eyelid, Pediatrics, Special Olympics

Down Syndrome is the most common genetic anomaly and will be present at birth. Down Syndrome is a complex condition and has several associated eye conditions.


Eye Conditions Associated with Down Syndrome

There are many conditions that affect the eyes or vision that are associated with Down Syndrome, these include slanted eyelids, additional folds around the eyes, eye turns, severe nearsightedness or farsightedness, astigmatism, nystagmus, blepharitis, and iris defects.


Slanted Eyelids and Epicanthal Folds

One of the most common ocular signs of Down syndrome is the upward slant of the opening between the upper and lower eyelids, this is referred to as an upward slanted palpebral fissure.

Another common sign is the presence of an additional fold of skin at the corner of the eye where the eyelids meet, known as an epicanthal fold.

Both an upward slanted palpebral fissure and epicanthal folds are present at birth and have no significant impact on vision.


Eye Turns with Down Syndrome

An eye turn, or strabismus, can be noted on anyone as eye turns are fairly common. However, there is a higher likelihood of a patient with Down Syndrome to exhibit an eye turn.

An eye turn can affect the vision in the eye that is turned out and can also impact the ability to perceive depth accurately.

There are a variety of treatments for eye turns including vision therapy, patching, and in some cases, surgery.


Nearsightedness, Farsightedness, and Astigmatism

Nearsightedness, also called myopia, farsightedness, also called hyperopia, and astigmatism are all common eye conditions which affect the ability to see clearly.

Nearsightedness is the condition in which near vision is clear and distance is blurry. Farsightedness is the condition in which distance vision is clear and near is blurry. Astigmatism is the condition in which vision can be distorted or blurry at the distance and at near.

There is a higher likelihood that an individual with Down Syndrome is affected by one or more of these conditions.

Nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism are corrected with glasses or contact lenses in most cases.


Nystagmus and Down Syndrome

Nystagmus is a condition in which the two eyes shake back and forth rapidly. Nystagmus can result in blurry vision and cause a loss of coordination.

An individual with Down Syndrome is more likely to experience nystagmus and may show some signs of nystagmus all the time.

Nystagmus can be helped with many options including glasses, covering an eye, and vision therapy. But the nystagmus may not affect the vision enough to warrant any treatment.


Blepharitis and Down Syndrome

Blepharitis is the name for a bacterial infection on the eyelids. Anyone can get blepharitis, but in individuals with Down Syndrome, it is seen more frequently.

Blepharitis may cause irritation and redness of the eyes and eyelids. It is best treated with antibiotic ointment or antibiotic tablets.


Iris Defects in Down Syndrome

Iris defects are normally areas of the colored portion of the eye which are not completely full but can only be noticed when evaluated in an exam setting. Most iris defects are not visible or noticeable when looking at an individual.

Individuals with Down Syndrome are much more likely to exhibit some form of iris defects than individuals without Down Syndrome.

Iris defects do not typically affect vision or eye health but need to be monitored.


Eye Health and Down Syndrome

Individuals with Down Syndrome are more likely to have eye conditions which affect vision and should have regular comprehensive eye exams to check the health of the eyes.

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Our eye doctors at Nittany Eye Associates excel in the prescription of contact lenses, glasses and diagnosis of various eye diseases. Call us at (814) 234-2015 or schedule an appointment online with one of our highly trained optometrists if you would like to learn more about eye conditions common with Downs Syndrome.  Be sure to visit Nittany Eye Associates where we always put the care of you and your family first at our convenient locations in State College, Matilda, Spring Mills, Tyrone, and Lock Haven PA areas.


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