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Children with Cataracts

Cataracts are often associated with adults, especially the elderly. However, it is also possible for children to suffer from what is called a congenital cataract. Read on to learn more about this condition.

Congenital Cataract

A cataract is an eye disease that denotes cloudiness or opacity of the lens of the eye. The lens is found behind your pupil and it is responsible for focusing light to enable you to see.

The congenital type of this condition is one that is acquired at birth. In the United States, it is estimated that around 500 to 1,500 babies are born with this condition each year or that’s about three babies in every 10,000.

Causes

Here are some possible causes of congenital cataracts:

•    Viral infection in utero
•    Severe metabolic disorder
•    Genetic disorder
•    Hereditary.

Detection

Normally, we all have red eye moments, i.e. when we are photographed with flash, our eyes can turn red since it reflects the red light coming from the flash. People suffering from cataracts will not have this reaction. If you notice that your child does not have red eye, have him checked by his pediatrician immediately. The doctor will look for that red reflex and if necessary, he will refer your child to an ophthalmologist for further tests and treatments.

Effects

Here are some possible effects that this condition may have on your child:

•    No changes in vision will be observed if the clouding of the lens is small.

•    Your child can experience deterioration in vision if his condition is progressive or is in the advanced stages.

•    Your child’s vision is at risk if the clouding of the lens is too large or it is in a sensitive location that will block light from the retina.

•    When the vision is affected, the vision center of the brain will not function as well. Thus, it will give up on vision subsequently and result in permanent vision loss in the affected eye.

Treatment

Here are some treatment options for children suffering from congenital cataracts:

•    No treatment will be given if the clouding of the lens is insignificant.

•    Surgical removal of the affected lens may be necessary if the vision is affected. This should be done to enable light to reach the retina and to train the vision centers of the brain to function properly. The procedure is like a vacuum aspiration where a very small incision is made on the eye. Recovery can be as fast as one week. During the recovery period, your child may need to wear an eye patch to protect his eyes. Doctors recommend that children undergo this procedure before two months of age for higher success rate. As children grow older, the risk of vision loss grows as well.

•    With the removal of the lens, your child will be farsighted. Corrective glasses will be difficult for children to wear. Thus, most doctors recommend the use of contact lenses. However, implantation of intraocular lenses is not recommended since your child’s eye is still growing and these lenses do not adjust to changes in focal length.

About the Author

Dr Jim Kokkinakis (Optometrist) graduated in 1983 from the Optometry School University of NSW. He is currently a Senior Lecturer there and regular speaker to both Optometrists and Ophthalmologists in Australia and Internationally. He has a specialist clinical practice in the Sydney CBD with interests in Eye Strain, Computer Vision problems, Treatment of Eye Diseases and complex Contact lens Fittings.

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