Cataracts rarely occur in children and are only seen in one out of five thousand births. The condition usually presents itself at birth and is more prevalent in premature babies. The reason for this condition can be infection during the pregnancy, genetics or inadequate birth weight.
Need for early diagnosis and treatment
The chances of the child gaining full vision are very high if cataracts are treated early. The infant’s vision development is extremely rapid in the initial months of its life. When the cataract blocks the light from entering the eye, it prevents stimulation of retina. As a result, the part of the brain that is used for vision does not develop and amblyopia or lazy eye develops. If cataract surgery is not performed early, the baby might never be able to see properly even if the surgery is conducted later.
The warning signs
The child may not be able to see small objects when it crawls on the floor. It may also not respond to bright colors or not look at your face in response.
The infant may shield, squint or scowl when exposed to direct sunlight, which is a result of glare from sunlight.
The alignment of the child’s eyes may be off and it might be unable to focus on same point at same time, which is also known as strabismus.
You might see wandering and repetitive movements of the eyes, which is called nystagmus. It is a sign that the child has already had cataracts for quite some time and surgery after the onset of nystagmus most often does not correct all vision problems.
Types of cataracts and the risk
The child may have a dense, large cataract at birth in the center of the lens. This type of cataract is usually found only in one eye and is highly likely to cause blindness. So, early diagnosis and treatment is imperative.
The child may have a small cataract in one eye, which may not impede vision to a large extent. Eye drops are prescribed in such cases until the time that surgery can be performed safely.
Cataracts that partially cover one or both eyes usually do not cause blindness. These must be checked by the eye surgeon frequently to ensure the size is not getting bigger.
Get the well-child exams
Often, when a child has cataract in only one eye, it is impossible for a parent to know it. So, it is vital that you get the child checked at regular intervals by your doctor to look for cataracts. Well-child visits are when most cataract problems are identified. Also, if the child has any underlying condition that can result in cataracts, this becomes known through the well-child visits.
Your cataract surgeon in Rochester may even prescribe pupil-dilating eye drops to maintain adequate flow of light into the eyes. The drops also improve vision during the time that the child has to wait for the cataract surgery.