Duane syndrome refers to a group of eye muscle disorders that are present from birth. The disorder is more common in girls than boys and normally diagnosed by the time they are 10 years old.
Duane syndrome causes abnormal eye movements because of a problem with certain cranial nerves that transmit electrical impulses to the eye muscles. Usually, only one eye (typically the left eye) is affected. Even if the disorder affects both eyes, one is affected more than the other.
Since Duane syndrome is a rare disorder, learning more about the condition can help you understand to what extent it can affect your child's vision.
Depending on the type of Duane syndrome, common symptoms include:
Abnormal head posture
Inability of one eye to move outward away from the nose and toward the ear
Eye looks smaller when it moves inward looking toward the nose
Strabismus, or misalignment of the eyes
Amblyopia, or reduced vision in the affected eye(s)
Some individuals with the disorder also have hearing impairments, spine abnormalities, or abnormalities of the heart and upper extremities. Although it's another uncommon symptom, some people with Duane syndrome have Goldenhar syndrome -- a congenital defect that causes abnormalities of the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth.
Doctors consider the possibility of Duane syndrome when strabismus is detected and a child turns the head abnormally in an effort to see better. Although the disorder doesn't usually run in families, it can. When that happens, the condition often affects both a child's eyes.
Since there is no test for Duane syndrome, eye specialists base diagnosis on clinical evidence following a vision exam. Although ophthalmologists and optometrists use different methods to measure the amount of misalignment between the eyes, they also test the range of motion of both eyes. If Duane syndrome is suspected, the doctor will look for any co-existing conditions.
Treatment for the disorder generally focuses on aligning the eyes to look straight ahead, preventing amblyopia, and correcting an awkward head position. Unless the eyes are misaligned, or the head turns more than slightly to make up for limited eye movement, no medical treatment may be needed.
When symptoms are bad enough to interfere with a child's daily life, vision therapy is used to improve eye coordination. This helps the eyes turn in the way they should when reading or doing other close work. Prism eyeglasses may help eliminate the awkward head turn.
In more serious cases, eye muscle surgery may be required to improve the symptoms. While surgery doesn't restore muscle function and normal eye movement, repositioning the muscles that move the eye can align the eyes better.
If you're concerned about Duane syndrome, or other eye issues, contact an ophthalmology clinic like Nevada Institute Of Ophthalmology.