Congenital Cataracts Explained

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congential cataracts

Unfortunately, children can have cataracts, too.

Cataracts are routinely found in older individuals. Most Americans will deal with cataracts later in life. As a result, it is hard for most of us to imagine this disease affecting babies. While it is rare, congenital cataracts do occur.

Cataracts are a protein build-up on the eye’s lens. Since there are no medications or drops that can remove cataracts, the disease is addressed with cataract surgery. The lens is removed and an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) takes its place. It is an outpatient procedure that is routinely performed in ophthalmologists’ offices each and every day.

As straightforward as cataract surgery may sound, it’s difficult to imagine such a procedure being performed on kids. But let’s jump back a few steps and answer the main questions: What’s the story with congenital cataracts?

Congenital Cataracts Are Rare and Treatment is More Complicated

As the name suggests, congenital cataracts are found in newborns. Statistically speaking, the condition is pretty rare. One study puts the number of visually significant cataracts per live birth in the U.S. at 3 to 4 out of 10,000.

While the condition is the same – the vision is clouded by protein build-up in the eye – the way it is acquired is different. Cataracts typically occur in adults over the age of 40 due to aging or lifestyle habits such as smoking or poor diet. Of course, for children it has nothing to do with aging and they have not lived a significant amount of time for lifestyle habits to be a contributing factor. Furthermore, treating cataracts in newborns is a much more complicated matter than it is for adults. For older patients, treating cataracts is a relatively straightforward process.

What Are The Suspected Causes of Congenital Cataracts?

Age is not a cause of congenital cataracts for obvious reasons, but there are suspected contributing factors. Some are inherited issues while others are related to the medical treatment of the mother. For instance, tetracycline antibiotics taken by mothers during pregnancy are believed to be one possible cause of congenital cataracts.

The mother’s health is also a factor. If the mother contracts measles, rubella, chicken pox, herpes simplex, or syphilis among a number of other diseases during her pregnancy, these ailments can contribute to the likelihood that her child has congenital cataracts.

What Are The Treatment Options for Congenital Cataracts?

For adults, treating cataracts is as simple as visiting their ophthalmologist for a consultation and then undergoing cataract surgery. For children, it is not so simple due to the risk of complications.

Nevertheless, if the cataracts are severe enough to prompt removal is required so that the cataracts do not impede the development of a child’s vision system. According to All About Vision, many experts recommend the surgery is performed between 6 weeks and 3 months of age.

As a parent, you try to make the best decisions when it comes to your child’s pediatric eye care by reading up on all the preventative measures to take before your child is born. But sometimes the best laid plans are ruined due to unfortunate diagnoses like congenital cataracts.

Our highly specialized team of ophthalmologists at Eye Care Specialists is here to walk your family through any vision diagnosis and treatment. When you book an appointment with one of our Scranton-area eye care specialists, you are guaranteed a skilled and patient professional that will put your child’s pediatric eye care first. Give us a call today.


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