Cataracts In Children: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Cataracts in children are an important cause of visual impairment and blindness. Read on to know what is meant by cataract, its causes, symptoms and treatment options.

By Ashwin Dewan

Cataracts In Children: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Cataracts in babies at birth or early childhood can be due to several factors such as genetics, infection during pregnancy, or low birth weight. But what exactly is a cataract?

What is cataract?

A cataract is a painless clouding of the lens of the eye similar to looking through a smudged window, which cannot be wiped clean. A cataract can be partial or complete but, in most cases, they are partial. A cataract often looks like a fleck, a crystal, stripes or plaques. Cataract can be unilateral (in one eye) or bilateral (both eyes).

Types of cataracts in children

Cataracts are usually associated with elderly people, but children can also develop cataract. Childhood cataracts are often classified as:

  1. Congenital cataracts (genetic). A chromosomal disorder like Down’s syndrome can cause cataract in babies. In some cases, pediatric cataract can be hereditary.
  2. They can also develop after birth (acquired). Acquired cataracts are further classified as developmental, infantile or juvenile.

Causes of cataract in children

There are several reasons why a toddler may be born with cataracts or develop them while they are still young.

  • Eye trauma.
  • Diabetes and other metabolic diseases.
  • Complications arising due to other diseases such as eye inflammation.
  • Congenital cataracts also occur when, during the period of pregnancy, the mother develops infections like measles or rubella, chicken pox or influenza.
  • Inflammation or drug reactions.

Also read: Healthy eyes for your child

Cataract symptoms

Although the symptoms for cataract differ from child to child, a child should be taught to watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Cloudy or blurry vision.
  • Decreased vision.
  • Double vision.
  • Lights appear too bright.
  • Colours seeming faded.

If you think your child is too young to complain about such problems, you can shine a flashlight into her eye. If you notice a white pupil, then your child may have cataract.

Signs of cataract

A child who may not be able to look directly at faces or a large object may have cataract. Other signs of cataract include:

  • When exposed to bright sunlight, the affected child may scowl, squint, or try to shield his eyes.
  • The child’s eyes may be misaligned.
  • One may see a white reflex instead of a red reflex in the affected eye.
  • The affected eye having repeated wandering movements, which is a later sign of cataract.

Note: If your child has cataract in only one eye, it may be difficult to tell. It is also important to spot cataract in children quickly so that early treatment can be administered and long-term vision problems are reduced. 

Treatment of cataract in toddlers

Parents need not lose sleep over their child having cataract. Most children born with cataract can lead a normal life. However, depending on the nature of the cataract, some might require surgery. Cataract surgery involves a simple procedure where the natural lens of the eye is removed and replaced with an artificial lens.

If a child is born with cataract, it is advisable to opt for treatment within a period of 2 months. Surgery for cataract is generally successful and with low risk of serious complications but certain complications include glaucoma and posterior capsule opacification (OPC).

Apart from surgery, glasses and contact lenses can also be used to deal with symptoms of cataract.

Cataract is not a serious disease. Parents should look out for signs and symptoms of cataract in their children and seek appropriate treatment.

Also read: Eye Care Tips For Children

About the author:

Written by Ashwin Dewan on 30 March 2017; updated on 25 September 2019

Looking for expert tips and interesting articles on parenting? Subscribe now to our magazine. Connect with us on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Join our Circles to share, discuss and learn from fellow parents and experts!