Comm Eye Health Vol. 17 No. 50 2004 pp 22. Published online 01 June 2004.
10 Key messages on childhood cataract
What all health workers need to know
- Cataract can occur in babies and children – it is not limited only to the elderly.
- A child may be born with cataracts (congenital cataract) or s/he may develop cataracts during the first few years of life (developmental cataract).
- Cataracts can run in families, and more than one child in the same family can be affected.
- Any parent or carer who notices a white spot in their child’s eye(s), or who thinks the child cannot see properly, should be taken seriously.
- All children with blindness and/or cataract should be referred to an eye doctor for detailed eye examination, diagnosis and treatment as soon as they are detected.
- Congenital blindness is treatable when it is due to cataract.
- Surgery is the only treatment for cataract in children.
- Treatment of cataract in children is a matter of urgency as early surgery increases the likelihood of better vision. The cataract does not need to ‘mature’. If treatment is delayed there is a risk of amblyopia and irreversible visual impairment or blindness.
- After cataract surgery children may need to wear spectacles. This also applies to babies.
- Long term follow-up is essential (unlike cataract surgery in adults), to monitor the vision, to change the glasses, and to manage complications.