A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye. The lens is normally clear (transparent).
Cataracts keep light rays from passing through the lens and focusing on the retina. The retina is the tissue lining at the back of the eye that’s sensitive to light. Cataracts may happen when the protein that makes up the lens gets cloudy. This affects your child’s vision.
Cataracts are rare in children. They can affect one eye (unilateral) or both eyes (bilateral).
Some cataracts are small and don’t cause any trouble with vision. Other more progressive cataracts can cause visual problems in children.
Most cataracts in adults occur because of aging. Children may have other types of cataracts. These include:
A child may be born with a cataract (congenital), or it may develop later in life (acquired). The following may cause cataracts:
Most cataracts that children are born with happen along with other eye or health problems. This type of cataract may be from genetic factors. This can include a metabolic disorder caused by an inherited enzyme deficiency. It can also happen because of a chromosome problem, such as Down syndrome.
Cataracts are more common in older adults. They aren’t common in children. Children may be more likely to have cataracts if they:
Symptoms can be a bit different for each child. They can include:
The symptoms of cataracts may look like symptoms of other health problems. Have your child see his or her health care provider for a diagnosis.
Your child’s health care provider will ask you about your child’s health history. Then he or she will give your child an eye exam. Your child may need to have the following tests:
Your child may also need other tests.
Most cataracts in children can't be prevented. But a lifetime of sun exposure may help lead to the development of cataracts and skin disorders in adults.
To protect your child’s eyes from the sun, do the following:
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Your child’s health care provider will decide on treatment based on the type of cataract your child has. In some cases, your child may need glasses or contact lenses. This can help your child see better. Many children older than age 1 need to have surgery to remove their cataracts and have a new lens inserted.
Cataracts in children can cause blindness if they aren't treated.
Our specialized pediatric ophthalmologists are experts at recognizing and treating complex eye conditions in infants and children.
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