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Health Information For Parents
A cataract is the clouding of the lens of an eye. Congenital means that it happens before birth or during a baby’s first year of life. A baby with congenital cataracts has clouding in one or both eyes.
A baby with a cataract can’t see well through the affected eye. This makes it hard for the brain and eyes to work together, which they must do to develop normal sight and properly control eye movements.
Depending on the cause of a cataract and how big it is, a baby with a congenital cataract can have other eye problems, including:
When a baby has a congenital cataract, the center (pupil) of the eye looks gray or white instead of black. The whole pupil may look like it is covered with a film, or you might just see a spot on the pupil.
Congenital cataracts can happen in babies who:
The most common infections that cause congenital cataracts include:
Many babies who develop congenital cataracts don’t have other medical problems.
Doctors often diagnose congenital cataracts during the newborn exam after a baby is born. Other times, they diagnose it during a well-child checkup, or after a parent notices one of the baby’s eyes doesn’t look right.
The doctor will refer the baby to an eye surgeon (ophthalmologist) who specializes in treating children. The doctor also will check for signs of other problems that sometimes happen in babies with cataracts.
Ophthalmologists do surgery to remove congenital cataracts. This usually happens soon after the diagnosis, as early as 6–8 weeks of age. During the procedure, the ophthalmologist removes the cloudy part of the lens and may put in a flexible plastic artificial lens.
After the surgery, the baby usually will need to wear a contact lens or glasses to help the eye focus properly.
Cataracts happen when proteins in the eye’s lens change. They may change because of an infection, a change in DNA, or a chemical imbalance.
Kids who have had congenital cataracts removed may have other eye problems, like high pressure in the eye (glaucoma). Careful and complete follow-up is important.
To help your child:
It’s important for kids to have their eyes examined regularly, as many vision problems and eye diseases can be detected and treated early.
Your newborn is taking in first sights, sounds, and smells while learning to explore the world through the senses. What are your baby’s responses to light, noise, and touch?
The eyes are small compared with most of the body’s other organs, but their structure is incredibly complex. Learn more about eyes, vision, and common problems with both.
Glaucoma damages the optic nerve. The condition gets worse over time and leads to a loss of vision if not treated.
Ptosis is drooping of the upper eyelid. Many things can cause it.
Strabismus causes eyes to wander or cross. Treatment may include glasses, patches, eye drops, or surgery.
Sometimes the different parts of the eye don’t work together the way they should. When this happens, people wear glasses or contact lenses. Find out more in this article for kids.
Kids who can’t see, or can’t see well, learn to live without using their eyes. To learn more about visual impairment and what causes it, read our article for kids.
Do you know an older person who has cataracts? Find out about this vision problem in this article for kids.
Strabismus is when someone’s eyes don’t look straight ahead. It might look as if the person has one crossed eye. Find out more in this article for kids.
Although your eyes are small, their structure is incredibly complex. Find out how they work in this body basics article.
Even if you’re lucky enough to have perfect vision, taking care of and protecting your eyes is vital to keeping your peepers perfect. Learn all about how to take care of your baby blues (or browns or greens) in this article.
When one or more parts of the eye or brain that are needed to process images become diseased or damaged, severe or total loss of vision can occur. Read all about visual impairment.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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