A cataract is a clouding or opaque area over the lens of the eye--an area that is normally transparent. As this thickening occurs, it prevents light rays from passing through the lens and focusing on the retina--the light sensitive tissue lining located in the back of the eye. With some cataracts, this clouding is caused when some of the protein which makes up the lens begins to clump together and interferes with vision. Cataracts are rare in children. They can affect either one eye (unilateral) or both eyes (bilateral).
Some cataracts are small and do not cause any visual symptoms. However, other, more progressive, cataracts can cause visual problems in children. Cataracts in children are uncommon.
A child may be born with the disease (congenital), or it may develop later in life (acquired). Possible causes of cataracts include the following:
The majority of congenital cataracts (those present at birth) are present in children who also have other eye problems or other health problems. In some children born with congenital cataracts, the condition is due to a genetic cause such as a metabolic disorder (caused by an inherited enzyme deficiency) or a chromosome abnormality (for example, Down syndrome).
The following are the most common symptoms of cataracts. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of cataracts may resemble other eye conditions. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.
According to the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, although most cataracts are due to aging, there are other types of cataracts:
In addition to a complete medical history and eye examination of your child, diagnostic procedures for cataracts may include, but are not limited to:
In addition, other tests may also be performed to help learn more about the health and structure of your child's eyes.
Our specialized pediatric ophthalmologists are experts at recognizing and treating complex eye conditions in infants and children.
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As your child’s vision system develops, the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that affect the eyes is complex because neurological complications may contribute to problems with sight and eye function.