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Baby Born Without Eyes

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Her ultrasound looked perfect. But Baby Brielle Garrison was born without eyes. How common is this?

Dr. Alanna Levine: It's natural for a mother to worry about the health of her baby during her pregnancy. However, once she is told her ultrasound and genetic testing are normal, most expectant mothers breathe a sigh of relief. However, not all medical problems can be picked up during routine screening, as was the case for Brielle Garrison. Baby Brielle was born without eyes, a condition called anophthalmia. About 30 in every 10,000 children are born with this rare condition.

brielle garrison

Anophthalmia is rare, and the cause is unknown -- genetics and environmental exposures may play a role. There is no treatment to restore vision, but multiple cosmetic procedures are necessary to make space in the eye sockets for prosthetic eyes. On average, a child will need new prostheses every few weeks until age two, and then three or four between the ages of 2 and 10.

As a pediatrician, I attend many deliveries each week and frequently I am asked, "Ten fingers and ten toes?" Delivering good news is always easy and joyous, but few things are harder than having to tell new parents that there is an abnormal finding, even if it's as minor as a birthmark.

Many people ask about broadening the screening process during pregnancy. Why don't we just test for everything? This is not feasible -- you have to know what you are looking for. In conditions such as anophthalmia that aren't passed on from generation to generation, it's incredibly difficult.

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60 comments so far | Post a comment now
Finnmom February 4, 2010, 9:34 AM

Oh my god, why would anyone do that to their baby? Please let children grow as they are. Think about it, how would they feel when they are older? They wouldn’t even understand the concept of seeing, but create their own way of understanding everything around them. Pair of glass balls inserted to their head - with a surgical procedure I might add - doesn’t give them anything. It’s only for you and how you perceive them. How selfish could you be?

mommybear24k February 4, 2010, 10:18 AM

This is not a cosmetic procedure for the parents to make the baby look better. The process is needed to support the baby’s face as it is developed. The head is going to grow and the procedures will keep everything uniform as the baby gets larger.

maeby February 4, 2010, 11:40 AM

@mommybear24k, didnt realize that. makes sense though. beautiful baby anyway =)

Shannon February 4, 2010, 1:06 PM

A Beautiful Baby indeed! What she lacks in sight I’m sure God will bless her with other gifts.

Vania February 5, 2010, 12:48 AM

I agree, this is for development of the face. But the baby still looks precious anyway.

Anonymous February 5, 2010, 7:41 AM

It is for the development of the face but also for socialization reasons. It’s not just to “make her look pretty” but to make it so that blindness is not the first thing people see. The world can be cruel to those who are even slightly different, it is sad, but a fact, so anything that will help this precious bundle along is terrific.

Anonymous February 16, 2010, 11:14 AM

I may have never seen a child with eyes, but I did have a cat born with out eyes. I would say glass eyes is a necessary. Not for beauty, but like others said, social issues. When I showed other children my poor kitten they were afraid of him because his empty eye sockets. (I still thought he was the cutest thing ever) Either people, especially kids can be cruel.

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