What Is Hypertelorism?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 August 2014
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Hypertelorism is a formal term which refers to an abnormally large distance between two paired organs. Most commonly, this term is used in reference to ocular hypertelorism, in which the eyes are unusually far apart. People who exhibit hypertelorism are usually diagnosed shortly after birth or as they begin to develop because the unusual distance is often quite evident. There are a number of options available for addressing hypertelorism.

It is important to note that hypertelorism in itself is not necessarily harmful for the patient. However, it is often associated with genetic conditions which may be harmful or dangerous. The hypertelorism may be linked with other unusual physical characteristics as well as developmental delays which can contribute to developmental and intellectual disabilities. Widely spaced eyes can be seen with a number of genetic conditions and they may also be the result of skull anomalies such as distortions in shape caused by premature closure of the cranial sutures.

Hypertelorism is often treated because it may make a patient more comfortable socially and to address any ill effects which the patient might be experiencing, such as distortions in vision. The treatment for this condition is surgery, preferably performed while a child is relatively young. Younger children recover more quickly from surgery, and early intervention allows a surgeon to minimize scarring and other problems.

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When a surgeon corrects hypertelorism, other anomalies may be treated at the same time. For example, a child with wideset eyes might also have nasal abnormalities which can be corrected while the child is in surgery. In the surgery, the surgeon can reshape the orbits of the eyes, move the eyes closer together, and address any eccentricities in skull shape which might be associated with the hypertelorism.

When a physician identifies hypertelorism in a patient, if the cause is not known, it should be determined. This can dictate which course of treatment would be most appropriate and it can also be used to provide other interventions which the child might benefit from. Since surgery often must take place before a child can take an active role in making medical decisions, parents or guardians should talk about the surgery with a surgeon to fully understand the benefits, risks, and purpose of the surgery so that they can make an informed choice on behalf of the patient. Second opinions can also be helpful for people who are making a decision about surgery.

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Discuss this Article

bear78
Post 3

Hypertelorism is not just a disorder in itself but also a symptom of other diseases. So I think that all parents need to watch out for this because it could end up being linked to a more serious condition that's also life threatening.

I have a cousin who has von Recklinghausen disease (a.k.a. neurofibromatosis). It's a really serious disorder that causes tumors in nerve tissues. His parents found out about it when they took him to the doctor at the first sign of hypertelorism. He is under treatment now and seems to be doing well. He has developed one tumor, but thankfully it was benign.

If his parents hadn't noticed and taken the hypertelorism seriously, they might not have found out that he has neurofibromatosis so soon. I don't even want to think about what may have happened then. So, hypertelorism is definitely a disorder that needs to be taken seriously.

turquoise
Post 2

@burcinc-- Doctors say that the ages of three, four or five is perfect for hypertelorism surgery (I think it's called 'orbital reconstruction') but it could be done later too. The surgery might be more difficult or there may be more complications if the child is older though.

I do know that hypertelorism generally requires more than one surgery. So after the first surgery, it's not done and over with. Several more surgeries will probably be required over the years.

I'm sure that a lot of this depends on the individual patient. If the child has other health problems aside from hypertelorism, surgery might not be possible even if the age is right or the doctors might decide that the hypertelorism is not advanced enough to require surgery. So it all really depends.

burcinc
Post 1

I'm doing an assignment on hypertelorism for Nursing School. Can you tell me a little bit more about treating this condition?

Moving the eyes closer sounds like a difficult surgery. What are the risks associated with this surgery?

Also, are there any treatment options if the age for surgery passes? I imagine that there may be cases where doctors don't notice the condition soon enough or the parents don't have the means to have the surgery done and the child becomes too old to have it.

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