Cataracts do not happen exclusively to older people, but children too can get them, and the condition is known as “pediatric cataracts.”
Just like it happens to adults, children can have a clouding of the eye’s lens, preventing light from reaching the retina. Alternatively, light can reach the retina in a scattered manner, distorting images and causing either a perception of blurry vision, or in some cases, blindness.
In cases of adults, when the cataract occurs and an operation is done to treat it, they would have a good vision again, but in cases of children, they have the disadvantage of not having the full growth of their eyes and brains. That’s why it’s very important to treat pediatric cataracts to mitigate any serious ramifications and prevent any permanent loss of vision.
And it must be noted that in many cases, the cataract is deemed to be idiopathic, or without a known cause.¹
Because the eyes and brains of children are still learning how to see, a pediatric cataract can lead to a condition of lazy eyes, and unless the cataract is addressed, this can lead to a permanent damage in the eyes. This is why it’s extremely important to treat pediatric cataracts as early as possible, as this could prevent them from having a permanent loss of vision.
Many times, doctors find that babies have a cataract even before those babies leave the hospital; at other times, a cataract can be found during baby check-ups, and at other times, a cataract is found when the usual photographic red reflex is missing or deemed to be irregular. Also, when the child goes through an eye injury, a cataract can be found in the following check-up.
The treatment depends on how severe the cataract is, and whether it’s affecting one or both eyes, but in most cases, surgery is needed to remove those cataracts. That being said, any pediatric cataract surgery must utilize special instruments and techniques for the surgery, as the children’s eyes have not reached their full growth. Nonetheless, those surgeries are generally safe when performed by an experienced surgeon.
As for the possible risks associated with cataract surgery, they are as follows:
After the surgery is performed, this is not considered to be a cure, but oftentimes, many more steps would need to be taken as part of an ongoing treatment to fix the respective eye-brain connections. As a part of that, there would need to be a refractive correction to have the clear images focused on the retina.
Moreover, children would need to utilize a combination of contact lenses, IOLs, or glasses to reach optimal results. And in case the child is suffering from lazy eye, patching might be of use wherein the dominant eye is covered, so that vision is stimulated in the weaker eye.
When the child has a timely treatment and consistent follow-up, the child would have good prognosis. Yet, the child may need several years of rehabilitation in order to reach optimal results.