Pediatric Cataracts

Pediatric cataracts can cause permanent vision loss if left untreated.

Many people may be surprised to learn that cataracts, which typically appear in older adults, can occur in infants and children. The lens of the eye is normally a clear structure, but if cloudiness or opacities form in the lens, it is called a cataract. A cataract can sometimes be seen as a white opacity in the usually dark pupil. However, some cataracts cannot be detected without a complete medical eye exam.

What causes pediatric cataracts?

There are two types of cataracts in children:

  • Congenital cataracts: This type of pediatric cataracts is present at birth
  • Developmental cataracts: This type of pediatric cataracts appears later in a child’s life and may progress

Congenital and developmental cataracts may affect multiple family members over several generations. They may be associated with:

  • Infections during pregnancy
  • Metabolic abnormalities
  • Genetic diseases

How do you treat pediatric cataracts?

Cataracts in children may prevent vision from developing normally. If not treated quickly, pediatric cataracts can cause permanent visual loss that will not improve even after the cataract is removed. Visually significant cataracts in children and infants are treated by surgical removal of the cloudy lens. After surgery:

  • Small infants will require glasses or contact lenses to provide a focused image to the eye and allow vision to develop
  • Older children who have cataract surgery can have an intraocular lens implant placed in the eye at the time of surgery, which eliminates the need for thick glasses or contact lenses following the procedure
  • Patching may also be needed after cataract surgery to maximize visual development in some children

Some cataracts in children are small enough or are not centrally located on the lens, and may not affect visual development. In these cases, surgery may not be necessary.

Your Henry Ford pediatric ophthalmologist will recommend the best treatment based on your child’s unique needs, and work with you every step of the way.

At Henry Ford, patients come first.

The Henry Ford Department of Ophthalmology is committed to providing our patients with compassionate, personalized care. We feature the most advanced treatments in eye care and are dedicated to vision research – always staying at the forefront of innovation. A leader in Michigan, as well as one of the largest ophthalmology practices in the United States, we treat more than 55,000 patients per year at 12 locations throughout southeast Michigan. In addition, our team works closely with Henry Ford Medical Group physicians in other departments, providing multidisciplinary, coordinated care for those patients who need it.

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Call (800) 363-7575 or submit an appointment request.