Overview of Childhood Cataracts

  Last Updated on January 16, 2023 by Aaron Barriga

Cataracts occur when there is a clouding of the clear lens, located directly behind the iris leading to clouded and misty vision. This mostly occurs in older people, but it may develop in infants and kids too. In fact, some people can even be born with a cataract. Let’s understand more about childhood cataracts.

They can be divided into two categories:

Congenital cataracts: When cataract is present in the baby at birth or shortly after it’s born

Developmental, infantile or juvenile cataracts: When cataracts are diagnosed in children that are 2 years and above.

Symptoms of Cataracts in Children

Cataracts in kids can affect one or both eyes. The symptoms include:

  • Blurry vision
  • ‘Wobbling’ eyes
  • Asquint (both eyes pointing in different directions)

Spotting these signs in infants is not easy, which is why your baby’s eyes should be routinely examined within 72 hours of birth. The test should be followed when they are 6-8 weeks old. It’s possible that cataracts can develop in children after these screening tests too. Detecting cataracts in children at early stages is important to reduce the risk of long-term vision problems.

Causes of cataracts

There are numerous reasons for cataracts to occur in children. Some possible causes include:

  • Genetic reasons when it is inherited from the parents
  • Injury to eye after birth
  • Certain genetic conditions that include Down’s syndrome
  • Infections that affected the mother during pregnancy

Treatment of Childhood Cataracts

Contact lenses: They can be used after eye surgery for bilateral or unilateral cataracts in kids under the age of two. Contact lenses can be used by older kids as well, however they are highly recommended for those under two as their eye and focusing power changes quickly during early infancy.

Intraocular lenses: These are artificial lenses that can be implemented to replace the natural lenses in children. Though this method isn’t widely used and is still under study for infants, there have been excellent results for those who opted for it.

Glasses: When cataract surgery has been done in both eyes and contact lenses failed to do the needful, then eyeglasses are recommended. They are even used when intraocular lenses are inappropriate. At times when focus needs to be managed very carefully, kids might have to wear glasses along with a contact or an intraocular lens, as the focus needs to be managed very carefully.

Risks of Cataract Surgery

Though it is successful in most cases with a low risk of serious complications, cataract surgery does have a few risks. The most common is a condition that can affect the artificial lens implants called posterior capsule opacification (PCO). This causes cloudy vision to return after the surgery. Glaucoma is another risk when pressure starts building inside the eye. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause irreversible and permanent damage to the eye and vision.
Most complications can be treated with further surgeries or medication. It is crucial that cataracts are detected in early stages and is treated quickly. Failing to provide immediate cataract care can result in a permanent lazy eye or even blindness, depending on the severity of the case.

How Can Childhood Cataract be Prevented

Cataracts that are genetically passed may not be prevented, however taking precautions during pregnancies to avoid infections may drastically reduce the chances of your child being born with cataracts. Genetic counseling may help if you are planning another baby after having a child with childhood cataracts.

If your child is complaining of compromised vision or if you observe any cataract symptom in the kid, contact our Eye doctor in Fresno at InSight Vision Center immediately.

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