This Toddler’s Beautiful, Big Eyes Are Caused By A Rare Genetic Disorder

2 min

Two-year-old Mehlani receives compliments on her big, beautiful eyes constantly. What these strangers don’t know, however, is that Mehlani has Axenfeld-Rieger syndrome, a rare eye disorder characterized by off-centered pupils, corneal abnormalities, and development of glaucoma, among other symptoms.

Her mom Karina Martinez told BuzzFeed News that her daughter was diagnosed at just one week old, and that she “had never heard of it until it happened to us.”

Half of those who suffer from Axenfeld-Rieger syndrome also have glaucoma, which increases pressure inside the eye and can lead to vision loss or blindness if left untreated.

Though Mehlani has glaucoma, her condition was caught and treated early, so her vision has not been impacted so far. It has forced her to wear sunglasses outside (glaucoma causes sensitivity to light), which honestly is one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen.

Martinez recently shared her internal struggle when it comes to strangers complimenting her daughter. “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,” she wrote, in a post that has since gone viral.

“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.”

The mom also wrote about how worried she was about bullies when it is time for Mehlani to start school.

“I get so nervous thinking about her starting school. What if other kids are mean about her eyes & she gets made fun of? What if she starts to hate her unique gorgeous eyes? It makes me want to cry thinking about it because she’s so strong & sweet & been through so much already.”

She then shared some unbearably adorable pictures of Mehlani as a little baby:

Luckily, this is one of those rare stories where the Internet comes through in a showing of love and support rather than hate and abusive. Since her tweet went viral, many parents and families of kids with the same conditions have gotten in contact with her.

“I’m seriously overwhelmed with all of the love my princess is getting ♥️ you guys are literally making me tear up!” wrote Martinez in subsequent tweets.

Martinez also asked for people to donate to the Childrens Glaucoma Foundation for her birthday, which you can do here.

She is grateful for all the support…and so is Mehlani.

h/t BuzzFeed News