Cataracts in Children - Topic Overview
Cataracts in infants are commonly detected at birth or during routine
well-child checks. More frequent exams are needed if the child has a medical
condition that increases the risk for cataracts, if he or she seems
to have trouble seeing, or if you notice your child has clouding of the lens.
Children who have vision problems from cataracts
usually need surgery to prevent lasting vision loss and to ensure normal vision
will develop. A small number of children with cataracts may benefit for
a short time from eyedrops that widen (dilate) the pupil. These eyedrops
increase the amount of light getting into the eye. The drops may also
help prevent vision loss in very young children who need to wait for surgery to be done.
Some types of cataracts in children require more urgent treatment
than other types:
- Large, dense cataracts present from birth in the
middle of the lens that affect only one eye are more likely to cause permanent
vision loss. These cataracts need early diagnosis. And they will most likely need to
be removed promptly.
- Smaller cataracts that are not causing
significant vision loss and are in only one eye may be treated by patching the
good eye. This strengthens sight in the eye with the cataract. Eyedrops that
enlarge (dilate) the pupil may also be used to increase the amount of light
getting into the eye. These treatments may prevent loss of vision until surgery
can be done, if surgery is needed.
- Cataracts present from birth
that cover only part of the lens and that are in both eyes are least likely to
cause blindness. These cataracts may only need to be checked often by an eye
specialist (ophthalmologist) to see whether they are getting larger.
Call your child's doctor right away if you see that your child has one eye with a red reflex and one eye without it. The eye with the "white reflex" may have a cataract.
Call your child's doctor if:
- Your baby does not look directly at or respond
readily to faces or large, colorful objects by age 2 to 3
- Your child scowls, squints, or shields his or her eyes more
than expected when in sunlight.
- Light seems to hurt your child's