What is a cataract?
A cataract is any cloudiness or opacity of the lens of the eye, which is normally crystal clear.
How does a cataract cause vision loss?
A cataract causes decreased vision by interfering with the light ray path to the retina (back part of the eye). Abnormal vision development resulting in permanent loss of vision (amblyopia) occurs when a child has a cataract. Prompt and sometimes immediate treatment by surgery is necessary to prevent permanent vision loss.
Why are some babies born with a cataract?
Pediatric cataracts often occur because of abnormal lens development during pregnancy or due to genetic or metabolic problems. These cataracts may be present at birth or develop during childhood.
Do all cataracts in babies and children need to be removed?
No. Some cataracts donot involve the visual axis and are very small in size. These cataracts do not need to be removed because vision develops normally, even if the cataract is left in place.
What is a traumatic cataract?
A traumatic cataract results from either a blunt or penetrating force that damages the lens. The cataract can form shortly after the trauma or months to years after the injury.
At what age should a cataract be removed from an infant or child?
Cataracts that interfere with vision should removed as soon as is safely possible, especially if the cataract is present at birth, since delay in cataract removal can interfere with normal development of the visual parts of the brain. Tiny cataracts that do not seem likely to interfere with vision may be carefully monitored, but should be removed at the earliest sign of a vision problem.
How is a cataract removed in infants and children?
A tiny incision is made into the eye and an opening is made in the front of the lens capsule. The very soft inner part of the child’s lens is suctioned out of the capsule. Younger children may require an additional opening in the posterior lens capsule with some vitreous gel removal. An intraocular lens is then sometimes placed within the lens capsule. Dissolvable stitches are used to close the wounds.
What are the risks of cataract surgery in infants and children?
Cataract surgery performed by an experienced surgeon is generally very safe. However, no surgical procedure is without risks. The risks of pediatric cataract surgery include infection, retinal detachment, development of glaucoma, displacement of the intraocular lens, development of capsular cloudiness and development of vitreous cloudiness.
How does the eye focus once the cataract is removed?
There are several methods to restore focusing ability of the eye: 1) a permanent intraocular lens implant (IOL) is sometimes placed inside the eye at the time of cataract surgery, 2) a contact lens can be placed on the surface of the eye. (contact lenses have to be removed and cleaned regularly), 3) glasses can be used to focus the light rays.