What is cataracts in children?

Cataracts in Children


A cataract is a painless, cloudy area in the lens of your eye. A cataract blocks light from reaching the retina (the nerve layer at the back of the eye) and may cause vision problems.

Cataracts are common in older adults and are linked to aging. Smoking and exposure to too much sunlight are other risk factors. Cataracts can also happen after an eye injury, as a result of eye disease, after you use certain medicines, or as a result of health problems such as diabetes.

Sometimes children are born with cataracts.

Surgery is used to remove cataracts that are causing a problem.

What are the signs of cataracts in children?

Here are some signs of cataracts in children:

  • You may see a cloudiness in your child's eye.
  • Your child may not look directly at or respond to faces or large, colorful objects. A baby who can't find small objects when crawling on the floor may have cataracts.
  • Your child may scowl, squint, or shield their eyes more than expected when in bright sunlight.
  • Your child's eyes may be misaligned and not focus on the same point at the same time.
  • You may see a white reflex instead of a red reflex in your child's eye. For example, in a photo of the child, one eye may appear white while the other has the normal "red eye" look.
  • The affected eyes may have repetitive wandering movements. This is usually a later sign of cataracts.

How are cataracts in children treated?

Children who have vision problems from cataracts usually need surgery to remove the cataract. After surgery, the child may need to wear a patch on one of their eyes, wear contact lenses or glasses, or use eyedrops. They may need to do one of these things or some combination of them.

How are cataracts in children diagnosed?

Most of the time, cataracts are found at birth during a doctor exam before the baby leaves the hospital or during well-child checks. If a doctor finds signs of a cataract during an eye exam, your child will be referred to a specialist for diagnosis and treatment.

How can you care for your child who has a cataract?

Be sure to take your child to all their appointments, and follow the directions the doctor gives you. In some cases, this may include having your child wear a patch on the good eye. If the doctor prescribes medicines for your child, give them exactly as directed.

What causes cataracts in children?

Cataracts are rare in babies and children. But children may be born with cataracts or develop them as a baby, child, or adolescent. Some things that may cause cataracts in a child include genetics, infection during pregnancy, low birth weight, an eye injury, and some medicines.

What are cataracts?

Cataracts are a painless, cloudy area in the lens of the eye. They block the passage of light to the retina. Nerve cells in the retina detect light entering the eye and send nerve signals to the brain about what the eye sees. Because cataracts block this light, they can cause vision problems.

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