Clouding in your child’s eyes? It may be a cataract. A cataract is an eye condition in which your natural lens in the eye starts to become cloudy over time and affects your vision. Cataract most commonly affects people above 40, but some babies are also born with it. Cataracts are rarely found in children. They usually affect one or sometimes both eyes. Cataract in children is small and does not cause severe trouble, but if your child has a progressive cataract, it can lead to vision problems and developmental disability. Some cataracts affecting children develop at a young age and progressively increase as they age. This type of cataract is known as childhood cataract. However, there are other types, as well:
These types of cataract are present at the time when the baby is born or the baby may get them shortly afterwards. These often affect both the eyes (bilateral).
These are caused due to diabetes or some eye-related problems. Medicine which contains steroids can also lead to this form of cataract.
Formed due to an eye injury. These can occur right after the injury or maybe years later.
These occur when your child’s eyes get exposed to some radiation.
Causes of Cataracts in Children
Congenital cataracts can be formed due to numerous reasons:
- It may be inherited from the parent to the child
- Passed from genetic conditions like Down’s syndrome
- It can be caused due to some eye infection, or infection picked up at the time of birth, diabetes, inflammation, drug reaction, diabetes, or metabolic problems
Also, there are instances when the cataract is not diagnosed in the earlier stages, and therefore it becomes a childhood cataract. Though there are various reasons for developing a cataract, it is essential to know the exact cause and treat them while children are young.
Symptoms of Cataracts in Children
It can be present in one or both the eyes. It is important to notice signs like cloudy patches in the lens, pupils appearing white when a flashlight falls on it, cloudy and hazy vision, seeing halos around the light. Not just this cataract can cause misaligned eyes (squint) or wobbling eyes, and uncontrollable eye movements (nystagmus).
Prevention of Cataracts in Children
- It’s unlikely to prevent cataract, especially when it is inherited. So, if cataract runs in your family then make sure during pregnancy, you avoid any kind of infection, and also take your vaccinations at regular intervals.
- Taking genetic counseling can help as it will help the couples to deal with the inherited conditions.
Treatment of Cataracts in Children
Children’s cataracts do not always affect vision. If the cataract is small and does not affect vision, it may not require surgery and the need to be removed. But in the case of congenital cataract, it should be removed as soon as possible within the first few weeks when the child is born. The reason it should be done so early is that cataracts directly affect the child’s vision and can lead to abnormalities. In the case of cataract surgery, the surgeon will remove the lens through a small incision. Then, it is up to the eye surgeon to choose an alternative of the lens removed. The options include an artificial lens, contacts, or eyeglasses. Eyeglasses are sometimes prescribed even after the surgery. Treating your child’s eye is important as it will help save their vision. Your child must take medications and precautions after the surgery. Make sure you fix a regular appointment with your ophthalmologist to keep a check on her recovery. The only way to make sure that your child does not develop cataract is to schedule an eye test when the child is of 6 months of age.
To help you deal with your child’s eye problems, Centre for Sight offers the latest technology and has an expertise of paediatric eye surgeons. It is considered as one of the leading eye hospitals in India and provides the world’s leading laser-automated technology for cataract surgery. Don’t hesitate to schedule an eye exam if you feel that you might need assistance on child cataract.