Duane syndrome is a congenital condition that affects the eye muscles, making it difficult for a person to move his/her eyes. Normally, the outward wall of each eye is attached to six different muscles. These muscles are attached (wired) to nerves, and the brain controls eye movements by sending messages to the eye muscles through these nerves. In patients with Duane syndrome, the nerves are not properly attached to one or more of the eye muscles, so the brain cannot fully control movement of the eye.
Patients may have difficultly moving one or both eyes inwards (closer to the nose) or outwards (toward the ear). Some patients with Duane syndrome may exhibit strabismus, which is a misalignment of the eyes that causes the eyes to always appear to be pointing in different directions. Also, some patients may experience ambylopia (or lazy eye), which is poor or indistinct vision in the affected eye.
Miswiring of the eye muscles is thought to occur during embryonic development. Therefore, patients with Duane syndrome are born with the condition and usually exhibit symptoms soon after birth. For unknown reasons, the left eye appears to be affected more frequently than the right eye in patients with Duane syndrome. In 20% of Duane syndrome cases, the movement of both eyes is affected.
In some cases, medical problems not related to vision may occur in patients with Duane syndrome. These include loss of hearing, improper development of the vertebrae or spine, Goldenhaar syndrome (a defect involving developmental deformities of the face), or Holt-Oram syndrome (an abnormality of the upper limbs and heart).
Currently, there is no known cure for Duane syndrome. However, most patients with Duane syndrome are able to live normal, productive lives. Some patients with Duane syndrome may choose to undergo eye surgery, which may be effective in reducing the severity of the symptoms. Physical therapy, such as eye exercises, may also be helpful for some patients.
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