Cataracts In Children: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Even though cataracts are rare in children, it does not mean they do not occur. In children, cataract is an important cause of visual impairment and blindness.

By Ashwin Dewan

Cataracts In Children: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

A child may be born with cataracts dues to several factors such as genetics, infection during pregnancy, or low birth weight. But, what exactly is a 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 speckle, a crystal, stripes or plaques.

Childhood cataracts are often classified as genetic (congenital). They can also develop after birth (acquired). In some cases, childhood cataracts that run in the family cannot be prevented.

Causes of childhood cataract:

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.

For more information on how to care for your child's eye sight, click here.

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 seem 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:

A child who may not be able to look directly at faces or large object may have cataract. Others 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 eye of the affected child.
  • The affected eyes may have repeated wandering movements, which is a later sign of cataracts.

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.

How to treat 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. Surgery involves a simple procedure where the natural lens of the eyes is removed and replaced with artificial lens. If a child is born with a 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 cataract.

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

For expert tips on eye care in children, read the following article: