Down Syndrome and its Effects on Vision

by Jul 5, 2023

Down Syndrome is a congenital disability that occurs when there is an extra copy of chromosome 21. It is the most common genetic disorder in humans and manifests as physical and intellectual developmental delays. Individuals with Down Syndrome often experience several eye conditions.


Eye Conditions Associated with Down Syndrome

There are several eye conditions associated with Down Syndrome. Individuals with Down Syndrome are more likely than the general population to have an eye condition. These conditions include slanted eyelids, epicanthal folds, eye turns, nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, nystagmus, blepharitis, and iris defects.


Slanted Eyelids and Epicanthal Folds

One of the most common ocular signs of Down Syndrome is the presence of an upward-slanting palpebral fissure – the opening between the upper and lower eyelids. This upward slant, along with an epicanthic fold – a fold of skin at the corner where the upper and lower eyelids meet – is present at birth and is a hallmark of individuals with Down Syndrome. Although these physical signs may be noticeable, there is no significant impact on vision.


Eye Turns with Down Syndrome

Strabismus, or eye turns, is when one eye points in a different direction than the other. This can cause vision to be blurry and affect the ability to perceive depth accurately. Individuals with Down Syndrome are more likely to have a lazy eye or strabismus. Treatments for strabismus include vision therapy, patching, and, in some cases, surgery.


Nearsightedness, Farsightedness, and Astigmatism

Nearsightedness, also called myopia, is when an individual can see nearby objects clearly but has difficulty seeing objects that are far away. Farsightedness, or hyperopia, is the opposite and causes difficulty in focusing on nearby objects. Astigmatism is a refractive error that results in distorted vision, both at a distance and close-up. Individuals with Down Syndrome are more likely to experience one or more of these refractive errors. The good news is that eyeglasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery can help correct these conditions.


Nystagmus and Down Syndrome

Nystagmus is a condition where the eyes shake or move involuntarily, making it difficult to focus on objects. The cause of nystagmus can be genetic or the result of an underlying condition. Individuals with Down Syndrome are more likely to experience nystagmus than those without the condition. Treatment options range from glasses, eye patches, and surgery, depending on the severity of the condition.


Blepharitis and Down Syndrome

Blepharitis, or bacterial eyelid infection, is common in all populations but is seen in individuals with Down Syndrome more frequently. Blepharitis can cause redness, itchiness, and inflammation of the eyelids and surrounding areas. In treatment, the doctor may prescribe antibiotic drops or ointments, depending on the severity of the condition.


Iris Defects in Down Syndrome

Iris defects are abnormalities in the colored tissue that surrounds the pupils of the eye. These defects are not visible to the naked eye and, in most cases, do not affect vision. Individuals with Down Syndrome are more likely to exhibit some form of iris defects.


Eye Health and Down Syndrome

Individuals with Down Syndrome should have regular comprehensive eye exams to check the health of their eyes. Children with Down Syndrome should have their eyes examined by an optometrist for the first time before the age of six months. Subsequently, they should have yearly comprehensive eye exams to ensure that any developing eye conditions are detected early.


Our eye doctor at Brooklyn Eye Care excels in the prescription of glasses, contact lenses and the diagnosis of a variety of eye diseases. Call our optometrist at (763) 999-6116 to schedule your appointment today if you would like to learn more about Down Syndrome and its effects on the eyes. Our eye doctor, Dr. Vivian Ekemezie provides the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in the Brooklyn Park, MN area.



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