Is aphakia a medical condition?

The human is blessed with many body parts and systems that allow humans to live and be able to do many things in life. One of the blessings that often is taken for granted is good eyesight. There are many eye disorders that could lead a person to find doctors. Eye disorders can lead to several issues, mainly visual disturbances of varying degrees. In this DoctorOnCall’s article, we will learn more about aphakia and is it actually a medical condition.

Aphakia is a condition of a person not having a lens inside the eyes. In other words, a person with aphakia is missing the lens inside the eyes in one or both of the eyes. Lens is the clear part of the eyes that is normally found behind the iris (the coloured part of the eyes) and it is oval shaped. This eye structure helps to focus light rays onto the retina so that what you see can be perceived by the brain. It works by widening or narrowing to allow light to correctly fall onto the retina. Without an eye lens, a person’s vision is typically affected. Take an example of the camera phone you have been using. The lens of the phone camera can be accommodated to help focus the objects you want to capture so the image can be clear for you to see. The way camera lenses work is similar to the lens of the human eye.

The question now is, is it a medical condition? Yes, aphakia is considered as a medical condition. A medical condition is defined as health impairment that resulted from birth, injury or disease that also includes mental disorder. Since aphakia can lead to disturbance to the eye function, it is considered as a medical condition. Furthermore, it also can be caused by birth, injury or disease leading to the aphakic state.

Aphakia in most cases are caused by cataract surgery. In some cases, it may be from an accident or trauma that causes the lens to be misplaced or damaged. Some may even get aphakia since they are little as a result of genetic or congenital defect but this is considered rare. The term aphakia may be confused with pseudophakia when it is associated with cataract surgery. While aphakia is a condition of missing lens in the eyes, pseudophakia is referred to as the additional artificial lens called the intraocular lens (IOL) inserted in the eyes during cataract surgery.

It may not be easy for the public to spot aphakia without the help of eye examination from an optometrist or ophthalmologist. However, there are signs that could be spotted from an aphakia. A person with aphakia often complaints of blurred vision, unable to clearly focus on objects moving closer or further from them, the colour of the objects seems faded and the iris seem jiggly or trembles (iridodonesis). It is important to spot signs of aphakia especially in children as they may aphakia that are left untreated can lead to amblyopia (lazy eye) which can cause vision loss at young age.

Aphakia is treatable in all ages. The recommended treatment is a surgery of replacing the missing or damaged lens with an intraocular lens (IOL). In some cases, special contact lenses may be preferred for babies that are too young for surgery and may be recommended for surgery when they reach 2 years old. Below is list of lenses used for treatment of aphakia:

  • IOL- Artisan lens that is made with Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA). Some IOL is made with silicone or acrylic materials.
  • Contact lenses- Silicone elastomer and RGP (rigid gas permeable) contact lenses. It can be rigid or soft type.

In essence, aphakia is a medical condition. It is an eye disorder that is more than just missing eye lens. It can cause a person to have continuous vision issues when left untreated. Even aphakia in general does not lead to life-threatening conditions, it can lead to poor quality of life especially in children and babies as it affects their development. This will surely cause learning problems and affect their future. Patients with aphakia tend to have farsightedness. Aphakia is a treatable condition.

The outcome of treatment for aphakia is generally good. Although treatment does promise good results, similar to other procedures in medicine practice, it does come with risk and complications such as corneal oedema, glaucoma and retinal detachment. It is best for a patient to have a thorough discussion with an ophthalmologist before deciding any treatment and to best understand what to do before and after the treatment to maximise the outcome. Most people recover from aphakia following treatment with no significant complications. It is worth noting that aphakia in children may need frequent adjustment as the size of the eye and refractive error changes rapidly. It is important to have regular eye examination at least once a year to detect eye problems early on.

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