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Colobomas or Colobomata

What are colobomas?
Sometimes the eye does not finish growing before the baby is born.  A hole is left in part of the eye.  It could be a hole in the iris (colored part of the eye), the lens (part of the eye that focuses), the retina (back part of the eye that catches visual information) or the optic nerve (the part that collects the visual information and sends it to the brain).  The eye does not grow outside of the mother the same way it would have inside.  The unfinished part of the eye is called a coloboma.  If there is more than one unfinished parts, they are called colobomas or colobomata.

What causes colobomas?
There is no known cause for some colobomas.  Other colobomas are inherited.  That means that a baby is born with them.  When people have a baby, the baby’s body has many things that the parents’ bodies have.  For example, a mother may have curly hair, and her baby may have curly hair just like hers.  The father may have brown eyes, and his child will probably have brown eyes, too.  But it is possible that two parents who have curly hair could have a baby with straight hair.  Two parents who have brown eyes could have a baby who has blue eyes.  They have the gene that makes straight hair and blue eyes hidden in their bodies.

Parents who have children who have colobomas may not have known that they have colobomas in their bodies.  The gene was hidden.  They may not have known that colobomas were in their body cells until they had a child who has colobomas.  Or they may remember that someone else in the family had colobomas.

What kind of vision do people have who have colobomas?
The vision for people who have colobomas will be different depending on where the colobomas are.  If just a small part of the iris did not finish growing, the vision is not very different from the vision of a fully-sighted person.  If the optic nerve or the retina has an unfinished part, the area where the person can see will be smaller.  The vision will be blurry. 

What will help you if you have colobomas?

  1. You may not need anything to help you if you have colobomas, or you may find that making things bigger is helpful.  The easy way to make things look bigger is to move them close to you or move yourself close to them.  Use a bookstand to hold your book so that you can sit up to look at it up close.  Maybe a magnifier will help you see things close to you.  You can make print and pictures bigger on the computer or with a copy machine.  A CCTV may help you see things.  A monocular telescope may help you see things.
  2. It may help to wear sunglasses and a hat with a dark brim in brightly lit areas.  You may want to find lights for indoors that you can adjust for yourself.  Sit or stand so that the light comes from behind you or from the side.
Have a doctor check your eyes once every year or two to make sure they are healthy.

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