- By: Dr. Harshavardhan Ghorpade
Cataracts by popular understanding are the prerogative of the old. However, Cataracts are quite common in infants and children as well, except that the causes are different and it is even more critical for surgery to be performed early! The various causes of Cataracts at birth include hereditary causes, part of Genetic Syndromes, intrauterine infections like Rubella and birth trauma. They are also caused due to nutritional deficiencies in the mother during pregnancy. Later, injury to the eyes can be the cause of childhood Cataracts. These are usually detected before the age of 2yrs and sometimes by the age of 5yrs.
In babies it is imperative for parents to look for a white reflex in the middle of the black part (Cornea) of the eye, any deviation of eye ball (Squint), any abnormal repetitive movements (Nystagmus) and notify the doctor immediately if the baby is not following movements or faces. It is also important to get their eyes checked at 1yr, 3yrs and 5yrs.
When children have Cataracts it is likely that they may have other systemic abnormalities as well. So it important to get Genito-Urinary systems, Ear-Nose-Throat and Neurological evaluations done. Also, if they have Cataracts in one eye, they are likely to develop dense in-correctable Amblyopia (lazy eye) in the other eye; hence early surgery is important. Other eye problems like Glaucoma, Optic Nerve Pallor and inflammation may also co-exist to complicate the situation.
Surgery in childhood is challenging in terms of surgical skills, lens power measurements and post-operative rehabilitation. All this requires patience and cooperation from the parents & the children. Sometimes it needs multiple examinations under Anesthesia and expenses can go high. At the same time, it must be remembered that the final outcome sometimes may be less than desired due to coexisting abnormalities. However early and correct treatment has given back vision and hope to many parents and children alike!