Cataract Problems in Children- Symptoms & Treatment
Cataract is an eye condition, wherein the clear eye lens gets clouded resulting in blurry vision. There is a common misconception that this occurs only in elderly people. But cataract problems can arise in children and babies.
Children can develop cataracts in one or two eyes. Some cataracts are small in size and do not cause any hindrance in the vision. But, if the cataract is large or gets dense, it can cause blurry vision or blocked vision in children.
Types of Cataracts
Cataracts in adults generally occur because of aging. Whereas, cataracts in children can be caused due to various reasons. Based on these reasons, they are categorized into the following types-
These cataracts occur when lenses are not formed properly in the babies, during pregnancy. Congenital cataracts can also be caused by genital or chromosomal problems like Down’s Syndrome. This may or may not affect the child’s vision.
Secondary Cataracts develop due to another disease, like in case of diabetes or complications from eye problems. It can also be caused due to steroids in medicines.
Some cataracts can be a result of an eye injury. These cataracts occur from the trauma induced during an eye injury. Traumatic Cataracts may occur right after the injury or years later.
This type of cataract occurs due to exposure to some type of radiation. This can be a possibility in children who survived cancer.
Causes of Cataract in Children
A baby can be born with a cataract (congenital cataract). Or can develop it later in life. Following are some situations that may contribute to development of cataract in children-
- An eye injury
- Steroids in Medicines
- Complications from eye problems
- Radiation Treatment
- Other illness such as rheumatoid arthritis
But, is it possible for me to identify if my child has cataract at the earliest?
Let’s look at some signs or symptoms of cataract.
Cataract Symptoms in Children
Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine cataract in children at the early stages. But you can look out for following symptoms in your child-
- Cloudy or blurry vision
- Misaligned Eyes
- Double Vision
- Decreased Vision
- Lights may appear too bright
- Rapid uncontrolled Eye movements
- Colours may appear faded
If your child complains of any of these symptoms, it’s better to get their eyes checked. But if a child is very young then they might not be able to explain or complain about these. In this case, shine a flashlight into their eyes. If cataract is present, it may cause the pupils to appear white. Be cautious about these signs and symptoms to identify cataract in children at early stages.
Cataract Treatment for Children
Treatment of cataract varies on how severe it is and the only way to treat it is to remove it. If it is small in size and does not affect the child’s vision, then there’s no need to remove it. But if it affects the vision, then it should be removed at the earliest. Cataract, if not removed, can cause blurry and blocked vision in children.
What to expect in the surgery?
For the surgical procedure, the child is given general anaesthesia by the paediatrician. The child won’t be awake or feel any kind of pain during surgery. Doctors use special instruments for the surgery since a child’s eye is much smaller & sensitive than the adults. They use the tools to break the lens and remove it through a small incision. It is a very delicate procedure but is very safe.
After the surgery, treatments will be done to help and restore the brain-eye coordination in children. The doctor will use one of the following options to restore focussing power in the eyes-
- Contact Lenses
- Artificial Lenses (this might not be an option for very young children)
- Eye Glasses
In case, cataract in one eye is worse than the other then they may develop a condition called amblyopia. Amblyopia is a condition in which one eye is stronger than the other. This can be treated by the doctor.
The child can go home on the same day, after some observation. It will be easier for the younger children to recover quickly after surgery while adult children might feel uncomfortable for a few days.
The doctor will prescribe some eye drops, make sure to follow the instructions for applying them. If the surgery is done for one eye, then the child may have to wear an eye patch on the other eye. This is to help the operated eye strengthen its vision.
Once the surgery is done, it’s very crucial to schedule your child’s eye appointment at regular intervals. Discuss about the precautions and measures that can be taken to help the child’s vision heal properly.
Cataract problems in children can create a lot of struggles for them in their daily lives. It can affect their education and learning pace. Look out for the above mentioned signs to detect cataract at early stages in your child. It can be treated very safely and help your child lead a happy life.