Aphakia

Medically reviewed by Ann Marie Griff, OD on October 19, 2017Written by Donna Christiano on October 19, 2017

What is aphakia?

Aphakia is a condition that involves not having an eye lens. The lens of your eye is a clear, flexible structure that allows your eye to focus. This condition is most common in adults with cataracts, but it can also affect infants and children.

What are the symptoms of aphakia?

The main symptom of aphakia is not having a lens. This can produce other symptoms, such as:

  • blurry vision
  • trouble focusing on objects
  • changes in color vision, which involves colors appearing faded
  • trouble focusing on an object as your distance from it changes
  • farsightedness, or trouble seeing things up close

What causes aphakia?

Cataracts

Cataracts can make your eyes look milky and cause cloudy vision. They’re caused by proteins clumping together on the lens, which tends to happen with age. This makes it harder for your lens to refract light on your retina, resulting in cloudy vision. Cataracts are very common, affecting about 24.4 million Americans who are 40 or older, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

In rare cases, babies are born with cataracts. This is usually due to genetics or exposure to certain diseases, such as chickenpox.

Talk to your doctor if you or your baby have cataract symptoms so they can rule out any other eye problems.

Genetics

Some babies are born without eye lenses. This category of aphakia has two types, called primary congenital aphakia and secondary congenital aphakia.

Babies with primary congenital aphakia are born without lenses, usually due to developmental issues or a genetic mutation.

Babies with secondary congenital aphakia have a lens, but it’s either absorbed or detached before or during birth. This type of aphakia is also associated with exposure to a virus, such as congenital rubella.

Injuries

Accidents and injuries to your face can damage your lens or cause it to detach inside your eye.

How is aphakia diagnosed?

Aphakia is usually diagnosed with a standard ophthalmic exam. Your doctor may also examine your iris, cornea, and retina.

How is aphakia treated?

Treating aphakia usually involves surgery for both children and adults.

It’s important for babies with aphakia to have surgery as soon as possible because their eyes develop very quickly. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies with aphakia have surgery when they’re about a month old. They’ll need glasses or special contact lenses that they can sleep in and wear for long periods of time after surgery. They can receive an artificial lens implant once they’re about a year old.

Surgery for adults with aphakia often involves removing the damaged lens if needed and implanting an artificial one. The procedure, usually done using a local anesthetic, can take less than an hour. Your doctor may prescribe contact lenses or glasses after surgery to improve your vision.

Does aphakia cause any complications?

Most people easily recovery from eye surgery, but there are a few possible complications.

Aphakic glaucoma

Having any kind of eye surgery can increase your risk of developing glaucoma. This happens when building pressure inside the eye damages your optic nerve. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to vision loss. After having any kind of eye surgery, make sure you follow up with regular eye exams to check for glaucoma.

Retinal detachment

People who’ve had eye injuries or surgery also have a higher risk of developing a detached retina. The retina has visual receptors that change images into electrical impulses, which are sent to the brain. Sometimes the retina detaches and pulls away from the tissue that holds it in place.

Symptoms of a detached retina include:

Get immediate medical treatment if you think you have a detached retina because it can lead to total blindness without timely treatment.

Vitreous detachment

The vitreous humor is a gel-like substance that fills the inside of your eye and is attached to the retina. Both aging and eye surgery can cause changes in the vitreous humor. These changes may cause it to pull away from the retina, resulting in a vitreous detachment.

A vitreous detachment usually doesn’t cause any issues. However, sometimes the vitreous humor pulls so hard on the retina that it creates a hole or even retinal detachment.

Symptoms of vitreous detachment include seeing:

  • cobweb-like specks in your vision
  • flashes of light in your peripheral vision

If you have a vitreous detachment, work with your doctor to make sure it isn’t causing any additional problems.

Living with aphakia

Aphakia in both adults and children can be easily treated with surgery. Just make sure to follow up with regular eye exams to check for any complications.

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