Anophthalmia / Microphthalmia


Anophthalmia is a medical term for the absence of one or both eyes.  Microphthalmia is an unusually small eye.  Anophthalmia and microphthalmia occur during early fetal development.  The eye begins to form but stops for some reason.  Anophthalmia and microphthalmia can occur unilaterally, meaning in one eye, but usually it occurs bilaterally, or in both eyes.  It can occur alone or be associated with other genetic conditions.

There is no treatment for severe anophthalmia or microphthalmia that will create or restore vision.  Children with anophthalmia can be fitted for a prosthetic (artificial) eye for cosmetic purposes and to promote socket growth.  Children with microphthalmia may have some vision, and in those cases the good eye can be patched to strengthen vision in the weaker eye.  A prosthetic can also be made for an eye with Microphthalmia to help cosmetically, while preserving the remaining sight.


Functional Characteristics
Children with bilateral anophthalmia are blind and will learn through their other senses.  Children with microphthalmia have a range of visual skills, from good functional vision that only requires corrective glasses to minimal vision that cannot be corrected.  Providing adaptations when possible can help maximize vision.


Examples include:

  • Adaptive lighting to minimize glare
  • Magnification or enlargement
  • Color contrast
  • Breaks to prevent visual fatigue
  • Seek the services of a Teacher of the Visually Impaired for adaptations and evaluation of vision related technology that can enhance learning.


Associated Conditions

Anophthalmia and microphthalmia usually have other related eye conditions. Colobomas can occur with either condition. Orbital cysts, cataracts, displaced lenses and retinal problems are common in microphthalmia. At this time, there is no known cause for anophthalmia. Anophthalmia can present itself in isolation or in conjunction with other birth defects. A Geneticist, physician that specializes in genetic conditions, can help identify possible causes of microphthalmia or anophthalmia and discuss the possibility of it occurring again in the family.



ICAN – International Children’s Anophthalmia & Microphthalmia  Network

c/o Center for Developmental Medicine and Genetics
5501 Old York Road
Genetics, Levy 2 West
Philadelphia, PA 19141
Phone: 1-800-580-ican



Family Connect

A website for parents of children with visual impairments developed by American Foundation for the Blind and National Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairments


Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments

1750 S. Big Bend Blvd.

Richmond Heights, MO  63117




Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments acknowledges the following sources of information for this summary:

Eye Conditions & Syndromes & Other Conditions. Project VIISA; SKI-HI Institute

International Children’s Anophthalmia & Micropthalmia Network, ican. General Information. Retrieved October 5, 2010, from 

National Eye Institute. Facts about anophthalmia and microphthalmia. Retrieved October 5, 1010, from  

Professional Edit, Steven D. Goodrich, M.D. Pediatric Ophthalmologist