Normally, we associate cataracts, the clouding of the lens that causes blurry vision, with older individuals. Did you know that children can also develop cataracts? In fact, some children are born with cataracts. This is referred to as congenital cataracts. If the child develops cataracts after birth, the term used to refer to the condition is developmental or infantile cataracts. Pediatric or childhood cataracts rarely occur. Worldwide, cataracts affect about 200,000 children. Two to four percent of these cases are congenital.
What are the symptoms of childhood cataracts?
Cataracts may affect on eye (unilateral cataract) or both eyes (bilateral cataract). Symptoms of pediatric cataracts will vary depending on the size of the patch, the location of the patch, and whether one of both eyes is affected. Spotting signs of cataracts in young children is difficult as the signs are not always visible to the naked eye. Fortunately, newborns are subjected to screening tests within 72 hours of birth. More screening tests are available for six to eight-week old babies.
For older children, look for the following signs and symptoms:
White or grey spot in the pupil
Eyes that point in different directions (cross-eyed or squint)
Rapid eye movements (wobbling eyes)
What causes childhood cataracts?
A number of reasons exist why a child may be born with or develop cataracts. For many cases of pediatric cataracts, however, the exact cause is not known. Here are some possible causes:
Genetic conditions such as Down’s syndrome
Genetic predisposition – someone in the family may have cataracts
Inflammation of the iris
Infection or disease during pregnancy (example: chicken pox or German measles)
Traumatic injury to the eye after birth
Does my child need cataract surgery?
Cataracts hamper vision, and if left untreated, may lead to blindness. Dr. Amjad Khokhar, founder of the Sugarland Eye & Laser Center, a LASIK facility in Houston, Texas, explains that early treatment can help prevent vision loss and other long-term problems, such as amblyopia.
Amblyopia occurs when the visual system does not develop normally. Cataracts prevent light from reaching the retina, the part of the eye that sends visual information to the brain. In an infant or young child, the brain is still developing vision in response to a clear image. In other words, “seeing” is the eye and brain working together. If a cataract isn’t removed, sight may never develop normally.
Cataracts can be removed via surgery. There are two types of cataract surgery: non-laser assisted or traditional, and cataract laser eye surgery. After the affected lens is surgically removed, it may be replaced with an artificial lens. For children under two years of age, contact lenses are often used to restore their focusing power. Glasses may also be prescribed if an artificial lens or contact lens is not applicable to your child’s case.
Parents may have concerns about complications, particularly if their child is still a baby. However, cataract surgery must be performed in a timely manner to ensure normal development of your child’s visual system. Consult an eye doctor if you have concerns about your child’s vision.
Sugarland Eye & Laser Center leads in providing premium LASIK technologies to Houston, Sugar Land, and the surrounding region. The Center’s award-winning medical director introduced revolutionary technologies such as iLASIK to the region. This technology is used by NASA astronauts, Navy SEALS and Air Force fighter pilots. At Sugarland Eye & Laser Center, you can now receive the same treatment. For more information, please call (281) 240-0478 or visit us at www.houston-lasik.com.
About the Author
Amjad Khokhar, M.D. is Chief LASIK Surgeon at Sugarland Eye & Laser Center. Add Dr. Khokhar on Google+ here.