By Dr. Mitchell Hecht
Q: I recently met a man at church who had an unusual eye condition where he was born without any pupils. He called the condition “aniridia.” What can you tell me about it? — G.H., Alpharetta
A: As you’ve described, folks with aniridia are born with eyes that lack an iris, which is the colored part of the eye that opens and closes to control the amount of light that can enter.
It’s congenital, hereditary and frequently associated with severe loss of vision.
Most children with aniridia are considered legally blind, and their vision gets worse with age.
That’s because there’s not only a lack of iris development but also a failure of proper retinal and optic nerve development, cataract development (clouding of the lens of the eye) and corneal changes.
Glaucoma is another commonly associated condition that can further worsen visual loss from aniridia.
Folks with aniridia also have nystagmus, which are unintentional and uncontrollable jittery eye movements that make it even more difficult to see.
Aniridia is present in roughly 1 out of every 90,000 folks in the United States, and in two-thirds of those with aniridia, other family members have it, too.
Check out the Aniridia Foundation International’s Web site for more information: www.aniridia.net.
Dr. Mitchell Hecht is a physician specializing in internal medicine. Send questions to him at: “Ask Dr. H,” P.O. Box 767787, Roswell, GA 30076. Due to the large volume of mail received, personal replies are not possible.