While most people think of cataracts as a condition that only affects adults, it's also possible for children to be born with cataracts or for them to develop cataracts later during childhood. It's vitally important to treat cataracts in children as early as possible, since the poor vision caused by a cataract can negatively affect the development of the visual center of your child's brain. If you suspect that your child is suffering from a cataract, you should consult with an optometrist in order to determine the best path for treatment, as some cataracts will just need to be monitored and others will require surgical intervention.
What Causes Cataracts In Children?
While the exact cause of cataracts in children is unknown, it is strongly hereditary; children are much likelier to develop cataracts in childhood if one of their parents or grandparents also developed cataracts in childhood. The lens of the eye does not develop properly, resulting in opaque or cloudy areas in the lens that interfere with vision.
What Are The Signs Your Child May Have A Cataract?
When your infant is around four months old, he or she should have little difficulty tracking large objects with his or her eyes. If your child appears to have difficulty focusing on moving objects or seems to ignore them, he or she may have a cataract. Another sign is strabismus, which is when your infant has difficulty focusing both of his or her eyes on an object. This is fairly common in infants, who have not fully developed the fine motor control of their eye muscles needed to focus in on an object with both eyes. However, if it persists past the age of four months or if it seems severe then it may be a sign that your infant has a cataract in one eye, causing him or her to favor the stronger eye over the weaker eye.
Why Is It Important To Treat Cataracts In Children?
The visual center of your child's brain develops rapidly after birth as your child learns to control his or her eyes and see the outside world. If your child has a cataract then this crucial step in brain development is hindered; having cloudy or obscured vision in one eye causes the brain to favor optical input from the stronger eye automatically. If a cataract is left untreated during childhood, vision may not be completely restored even after the cataract is removed; this is due to the fact that the region of the brain responsible for the affected eye never had the chance to fully develop. To prevent vision problems later in life, it's important to treat cataracts in children as soon as possible.
What Should You Do If You Think Your Child Has A Cataract?
Your pediatrician is able to diagnose cataracts in children, but he or she will have to refer you to an optometrist for further consultation. Cataracts that do not impair vision will not require removal; however, you will need to schedule regular visits with an optometrist, such as at Dixie Ophthalmic Specialists at Zion Eye Institute, in order to see if the cataract is becoming worse. If your child's cataract does obstruct vision and requires removal, you will be directed to a skilled ophthalmologist who will perform the surgery and provide follow-up care.