Congenital Cataracts in Children

Congenital cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye. About three out of every 10,000 babies born have or develop congenital cataracts. Depending on the severity and placement of the cataracts, vision may be hampered and cataract surgery may be required.

Congenital Cataract Causes

Congenital cataracts are caused by abnormalities in the lens development during pregnancy. These abnormalities in development can be caused by hereditary tendencies, diseases suffered by the mother during pregnancy, trauma, or drug reactions. Tetracycline antibiotics given to treat infections during pregnancy have been linked to an increased risk of congenital cataracts.

Types of Congenital Cataracts

There are several different types of congenital cataracts that may affect the vision to varying degrees. Cerulean cataracts affect both eyes and are characterized by small, bluish dots. Cerulean cataracts usually do not affect vision or require surgery. Nuclear cataracts appear in the central area of the lens and may require treatment. Anterior polar cataracts are located in the front part of the lens and are usually small enough to avoid surgery. Posterior polar cataracts appear in the back portion of the lens.

Effects of Congenital Cataracts

Failure to treat cataracts may result in the development of amblyopia. Commonly called a “lazy eye” amblyopia can affect visual acuity and if left untreated can eventually cause blindness. The inability to focus caused by amblyopia can affect a child’s learning ability. The difference in appearance caused by amblyopia can affect a child’s self image and self esteem.

Congenital Cataract Treatment

Congenital cataracts that are small and do not affect vision may not require treatment. If cataracts affect vision or appear in only one eye, cataract removal surgery may be necessary. After the surgery, an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) may be placed in the eye. If an IOL is not placed, the child will need to wear contact lens so that visual development is not hindered. If amblyopia had begun to develop, physicians may recommend that an eye patch be worn to strengthen the weaker eye.

Cataract Surgery Concerns

There is some concern about when to perform cataract surgery on very young children. Some experts believe that it is best to remove cataracts from children’s eyes between six weeks and three months of age to prevent worsening conditions. However, there are dangers to introducing children to anesthesia at that young age. Development of high eye pressure caused by very early surgeries has also been linked to development of secondary glaucoma.




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Haddril, Marilyn. “Congenital Cataracts.” All About Vision. Access Media Group, 1 July 2014. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <>