Recently I learned of a rare congenital (at birth) eye disease that I had never heard of before. I decided to look it up so I could share some information with you about Duane syndrome (DS).
According to NORD (National Organization for Rare Diseases) Duane syndrome (sometimes referred to as Duane retraction syndrome) is an eye movement disorder, present at birth, that limits the horizontal movement of the eye. When there is a limited ability to move the eye inward toward the nose, it is called adduction. When the limited ability to move the eye is outward toward the ear, it is called abduction. This can also take place in both eyes. Additionally, when the eye(s) move toward the nose, the eyelids partially close and the eyeball pulls back into its socket. Usually only one eye is affected, but some people with Duane syndrome develop amblyopia or “lazy eye,” a condition that can cause vision loss in the affected eye.
Although the condition is considered to be inherited, the majority (approximately 90%) of cases are sporadic, meaning they occur in individuals with no history of the condition in the family. Even in incidences where there is evidence of the condition in families, it has been known to skip a generation.
Doctors aren’t totally certain to the cause of Duane’s syndrome, but the disorder which prevents the muscles and nerves around the eye to work well together seems to happen when the nerves that control the eye muscles don’t grow normally during the early weeks of pregnancy when the eye nerves and muscles begin to develop. The result is that some muscles stretch, which other tighten.
The good news is that DS doesn’t cause blindness and rarely leads to other health issues. In rare cases, DS has been linked to problems with bones, eyes, ears, kidneys and the nervous system.
In some cases, treatment of Duane syndrome may involve surgery, to improve head turning, head tilting, and reduce the misalignment of the eyes. Surgery may also improve when the eye deviates upward or downward, called upshoots and downshoots.