Rare diseases come in many forms, shapes, and sizes – with varying degrees of symptoms and attributes. Here is one that made news on the Internet, for it’s peculiar and standout symptom.
Two-year-old Mehlani Martinez of Minnesota has a rare condition called Axenfeld-Rieger syndrome, which cases her eyes to become bigger.
Mehlani became something of a viral sensation after her mother posted about the attention she gets for her big beautiful eyes.
Beautiful Mehlani certainly got our attention.
What is Axenfeld-Rieger Syndrome?
Axenfeld-Rieger syndrome is a group of disorders that mainly affects the development of the eye.
Common eye symptoms include cornea defects and iris defects. People with this syndrome may have an off-center pupil (corectopia) or extra holes in the eyes that can look like multiple pupils (polycoria).
About 50% of people with this syndrome develop glaucoma, a condition that increases pressure inside of the eye, and may cause vision blindness.
Breaking the Internet with a Smile
Mehlani – looking cute as ever – went viral, thanks to a tweet by her mom Karina, using the picture to the left.
Karina’s message is an important one.
“Everytime were out & a stranger compliments on how big & beautiful her eyes are, I have a mental debate on whether or not I should mention her defect. I decide no, smile & say thank you. I’m always left with a weird feeling. I just pray she’ll always know how beautiful she is.”
It’s been reported that while Mehlani has glaucoma, her vision so far has not suffered. Karina said they don’t yet know what’s in her future, but she has to wear sunglasses outside because Mehlani’s glaucoma can make her eyes sensitive to light.
But as many here in the Patient Worthy community can attest, what often hurts the most isn’t the physical pain but the social stigma.
As Karina tells Buzzfeed News:
“Maybe kids will call her mean names. There are kids that she’s played with who’ve mentioned, ‘Oh my gosh, mom, her eyes are so big.’ At this point I think she’s just too young to understand, so she doesn’t know any different. She doesn’t know anything is really wrong with her eyes.”
While we can’t predict the future, we hope that thanks to the advocacy work of many organizations and communities – and even sites like us! – Mehlani will come of age in a world that sees her just as beautiful as we here all see her.
And we’re not the only ones.