Cataracts are an eye condition where the lens of the eye becomes cloudy. The lens normally allows light to pass through the eye. When the lens becomes cloudy, light can pass through. So, vision becomes blurred. This can happen in one eye or both eyes.
Cataracts are most common in adults. However, they can also affect babies and young kids. Because the eyes are still developing, cataract should be treated right away. Delaying the treatment can increase the risk of lazy eye.
Types of Childhood Cataracts:
There are two types: congenital and juvenile. Congenital cataracts are found in newborn babies, while juvenile cataracts develop in toddlers or young children.
In many cases, the exact cause is unknown. The main causes of congenital cataracts are genetic disorders (like Down’s Syndrome) and infections during pregnancy (like measles and rubella).
Juvenile cataracts are acquired later in life. They may be due to diabetes, eye trauma, infection by a parasite, or galactosaemia (a condition where the sugar in milk cannot be broken down by the body).
If you have a family history of childhood cataracts, your child may be at a greater risk.
The symptoms of the cataract are,
- Poor vision
- Rapid, uncontrolled eye movements (may look like shaking)
- Eyes point in different directions
- A white or grey pupillary reflex
These symptoms may be difficult to notice in young children. If your child has a hard time recognizing or following people, it may be a warning sign that something is wrong.
Cataract surgery is the only treatment for cataracts. The earlier the surgery, the better the outcome. The paediatric ophthalmologist will remove the cloudy lens. During surgery, your child will be put under general anesthesia, meaning your child will be asleep so they don’t feel pain. The surgery is very quick and safe. In most cases, it can restore clear vision.
Types of Surgery:
In all cataract surgeries, the cloudy lens is removed. However, the doctor may then choose one of two options:
- Your child can wear glasses or contact lenses after the lens is removed
- An intraocular lens (IOL) may be put in the eye in place of the cloudy lens
Your child’s doctor will decide which type is best based on these factors:
- Age of the child
- Type of cataract
- Other eye diseases
- Ability of the parents to understand the condition
Intraocular lenses can be safely used in children above the age of 2. In a few cases, they may also be used in younger kids.
After the Surgery:
- The child should come regularly for eye checkups. Your doctor will tell you how often you need to come.
- Your child should stay in the hospital for 2-3 days to make sure the eye is healing well.
- Your child should avoid all outdoor activities for 4-6 weeks. This is to reduce the risk of injury.
- All children will require glasses for the best results (regardless of the type of surgery)