Although rare, we explain Congenital and Infantile Cataracts
Cataracts can make vision appear blurry or misty, similar to peering through frosted glass. Occasionally, babies are born with cataracts or develop them at a young age. If a baby is born with a cataract, it is called a congenital cataract; if the infant develops a cataract within the first six months of life, it is known as an infantile cataract. Oftentimes, a cataract can form in one (unilateral) eye, and sometimes both eyes (bilateral) are affected. Children who are diagnosed with a “lazy eye,” or amblyopia, usually have a cataract in one eye. If the eye sends unfocused, blurry images to the brain, they will soon be ignored by the brain, which will favor the stronger eye. This results in an undeveloped visual pathway, making one eye more resilient than the other.
The different types of congenital cataracts vary; some affect vision while others do not. If a cataract is located on the edge of the lens, it will not affect vision as much as those on the center. If treated too late or goes untreated, dense cataracts can cause blindness.
The treatment for infantile cataracts depends on whether it affects the child’s vision. If no visual issues are detected, treatment is unnecessary. However, if the cataract impairs their eyesight, surgery to remove the affected lens is recommended. Cataracts cannot grow back once they are removed. To ensure the child receives the best possible vision throughout their life, a lens will be implanted, and glasses and/or contact lenses will be required. Glasses and contact lenses help to replace the natural lens within the child’s eye by providing a fixed focus.
With glasses and/or contact use, the child will be able to see as clearly as possible no matter the distance, which will be correctly presented to their developing brain. When it comes to a child’s visual development, clear images are vital. As the child grows, their eyes will change, which is common.
Monitoring the child’s eye health following treatment for cataracts will ensure there are no surprises or issues that may develop in the future. Typically, ophthalmologists will schedule appointments as necessary. Early detection and treatment are the best solutions for congenital or infantile cataracts. Regular eye checkups will ensure the child is outfitted with the correct strength of glasses and/or contacts.
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