A cataract is a cloudiness or opaqueness in the lens of the eye. The most common cataracts are those that develop as people age, but children can also get cataracts. Approximately 3 in 10,000 children are affected by either congenital or juvenile cataracts.
These pediatric cataracts are most commonly caused by abnormal lens development during pregnancy. They can be present at birth or develop during childhood. Most pediatric cataracts are not associated with other abnormalities. Cataracts also can be caused by a trauma to the eye. For instance if an object like a ball hits the eye with enough force it could cause a traumatic cataract. This type of cataract can form immediately after the trauma or develop months later.
Small cataracts do not necessarily affect vision, but the larger a cataract grows, the more likely it is that it will interfere with one’s vision. In severe cases, a cataract can result in total loss of vision.
Cataracts that affect a child’s vision should be removed surgically as soon as it is possible. This is especially true with cataracts that are present at birth since the cataract could interfere with the normal development of the visual parts of the brain.
During cataract surgery, a tiny incision is made in the eye, so an opening can be created in the front of the lens. The soft inner part of the child’s capsule – the part with the cataract – is removed. Younger children may require an additional opening to remove some vitreous gel that could be affected by the cataract and the wound is closed with dissolvable stitches. Older children may have an intraocular lens placed within the capsule but infants and younger children will use a contact lens (or glasses) after surgery.
Cataract surgery performed by an experienced surgeon is generally very safe, though no surgical procedure is without risks. The risks of pediatric cataract surgery include infection, retinal detachment, development of glaucoma, development of capsular cloudiness and development of vitreous cloudiness.
Children’s Eye Care provides this information for general educational purposes only. It should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published on this website is not intended to replace, supplant, or augment a consultation with an eye care professional. Children’s Eye Care disclaims any and all liability for injury or other damages that could result from use of the information obtained from this site.