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A cataract is a clouding (opaque area) over the lens of the eye. This area is normally clear (transparent).
Cataracts keep light rays from passing through the lens and focusing on the retina. The retina is the tissue lining at the back of the eye that’s sensitive to light. This clouding may happen when some of the protein that makes up the lens clumps together. This affects your child’s vision.
Cataracts are rare in children. They can affect one eye (unilateral) or both eyes (bilateral).
Some cataracts are small and don’t cause any trouble with vision. Other, more progressive cataracts can cause visual problems in children.
Most cataracts in adults are because of aging. Children may have other types of cataracts. These include:
A child may be born with a cataract (congenital). Or it may develop later in life (acquired). The following may cause cataracts:
Most cataracts that children are born with happen along with other eye or health problems. This type of cataracts may be from genetic factors. This can include a metabolic disorder caused by an inherited enzyme deficiency. It can also occur as a result of a chromosome problem, such as Down syndrome.
Cataracts are more common in older adults. They aren’t common in children. Children may be more likely to have cataracts if they:
Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They can include:
The symptoms of cataracts may look like symptoms of other health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your child’s healthcare provider will ask you about your child’s health history. Then he or she will give your child an eye exam. Your child may need to have the following tests:
Your child may also need other tests.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Your child’s healthcare provider will decide his or her treatment based on the type of cataract your child has. In some cases, your child may need glasses or contact lenses. This can help your child see better. Many children need to have their cataracts removed with surgery.
Cataracts in children can cause blindness if they aren't treated.
Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays may set children up for vision problems. The sun can cause cataracts, cancer of the eyelid, macular degeneration, and burned corneas. Children are more prone to these issues because their lenses don’t block as much UV light as adult lenses. Children also spend more time outdoors than adults, often in places with a lot of sun reflection. These include beaches, pools, and amusement parks. This UV eye damage builds up over time (cumulative).
To protect your child’s eyes from the sun, do the following
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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