What is pediatric cataract: A cataract is the clouding of
the eye's lens. The lens is supposed to be crystal clear to enable smooth visual
inputs to the brain. The lens is the first form of contact with the light. The
light then goes to the brain via the retina. In the case of a cataract, this
light may get scattered due to the lens's cloudiness. When children suffer from
this opacity in their eye's lens, it is known as a pediatric cataract. If left
untreated, cataracts can lead to blindness. A pediatric cataract can have
long-term effects on a child's vision.
Causes: Pediatric cataracts can occur due to many reasons. Depending on the child's family history, a cataract can present itself at birth, or a child may develop the disorder as he grows. If a cataract is present at birth, it's known as a congenital cataract. Common causes of a pediatric cataract are:
● Genetic defect inherited from the parents' genes
● Genetic conditions such as Down syndrome
● Hereditary cataract issues
● Injury to the eye after birth
● Complications during birth
Yet, sometimes, the cause of a pediatric cataract may be unknown.
Symptoms: Cataracts are hard to spot if they are small in size. Infants can track the objects in their surroundings by the time they reach four months. If you notice that your baby isn't reacting to light and colors as he/she usually should, you should immediately schedule an ophthalmologist appointment.
Diagnosis: A routine screening of the eyes is enough to reach the diagnosis. However, developmental cataracts may occur after regular screenings. So, one must be extra careful about their child's vision and notice their habits carefully.
Prevention: In the case of a family history of cataracts, your child's doctor will be on the lookout for this disorder. In the case of an acquired cataract, prevention may not be possible. However, early detection can help prevent the cataract from progressing into long term vision problems.
Treatment: The treatment of a pediatric cataract depends on the progression of the disorder. Children with visually significant cataract would require surgery and those with visually insignificant cataract may be kept under observation.
Surgery: In the case of an advanced cataract, your doctor may recommend surgery. The affected lens is replaced with an artificial lens. Or, the child may have to wear contact lenses or glasses to replace the affected lens after surgery.
Takeaway: Childhood cataracts are treatable. Children with pediatric cataracts can go on to have a fully functional life. But the affected eye(s) may always have reduced vision.