A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. Normally, light enters your eye via the pupil and passes through the lens which focuses it onto the retina. If there is an opacity in the lens, the result is hazy or blurred vision. How blurry or hazy depends on the characteristics of the cataract.
All adults, sooner or later, will develop cataracts. This is common with aging. However children can also be affected. Occasionally an infant is born with a cataract. Some of these cataracts are inherited. Some are the result of infections contracted during pregnancy. Most of the time, however, the cause of the cataract remains unknown.
Some childhood cataracts are small enough or not dense enough to cause serious problems. Dr. Kronwith can evaluate a cataract and determine if watchful waiting is all that is necessary. Many childhood cataracts, unfortunately, require surgery. Often this surgery must be performed during the first month or two of life if the infant is born with a significant cataract. If not done during this time frame, untreatable amblyopia may occur and the child will have extremely poor vision for the rest of his or her life. Sometimes, again depending upon the characteristics of the cataract, surgery can be delayed until the child is older.
Cataracts are removed as follows. Using microscopic surgical techniques, the lens is entirely or partially removed. This is done through an incision in the eye under general anesthesia. Lasers cannot yet remove cataracts. Once the lens is removed, depending upon many factors, either contact lenses, glasses, a combination of both or a plastic, implanted lens will be used to replace the original lens. Meticulous follow-up will be required and patching of the other eye may be necessary to guard against amblyopia. The parents will be called upon to do much work in the rehabilitation of the eye.
Children with cataracts often develop strabismus(misaligned eyes) which is usually treated with eye muscle surgery.
With prompt diagnosis and treatment, cataracts in children can be successfully managed and what used to be a cause of blindness now can be eliminated.