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What is bilateral optic atrophy?

The Social Security Administration's list of Compassionate Allowances contains more than a hundred conditions and disorders that not only meet the SSA's definition of a disability but make a person eligible for benefits from the government as well. But while some of these conditions are easily recognizable to some of our Missouri readers, there are probably a number that our readers know nothing about.

In this week's post, we wanted to take a look at one condition that can be found on the list of Compassionate Allowances called bilateral optic atrophy. After explaining what the condition is, we hope our readers will be able to see why people with this condition generally benefit from Social Security disability benefits over the course of their lifetime.

What is bilateral optic atrophy?

According to both the SSA and the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, optic atrophy is a condition in which damage to the optic nerve adversely affects central and peripheral vision as well as a person's ability to see colors. The term bilateral simply means that this loss of vision occurs in both eyes. In some cases, the condition can leave a person blind for the rest of their life.

What causes optic atrophy to occur?

Though optic atrophy can be caused by genetics, it can also develop because of a birth injury as well. Some common birth injuries associated with BOA are: hydrocephalus, hypoxia, and brain damage due to a birth or head trauma.

What are the physical symptoms of the condition?

People diagnosed with BOA typically have diminished visual acuity from birth, meaning children with this condition usually need help from teachers and educational specialists to make sure that they are reaching their maximum potential in school.

At present time, there is no cure for BOA, only treatments for the symptoms. This means that the condition will continue to affect a person for their entire life, possibly preventing them from securing a job and a steady income. It's because of this significant impact that a person with BOA may require disability benefits, which would provide them with financial security they need for day-to-day life.

Sources: The Social Security Administration, "Bilateral Optic Atrophy- Infantile," Accessed Oct. 15, 2014

American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, "Optic Nerve Atrophy," Accessed Oct. 15, 2014


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