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Cataracts in Babies

What is a cataract?

Normally, babies are born with a transparent lens in each eye. The lens focuses objects on the retina, and it brings objects into focus, making it possible for the eye to see, Instead of a transparent lens, some babies are born with a milky white lens, which is too cloudy to focus on objects. This condition is called a cataract. The opaque lens keeps light from passing through to the retina, so images and objects cannot be seen.

In rare cases, children develop cataracts in the first few years of their lives.

What are the causes?

Heredity is the most common cause of cataracts in babies and young children. In recent years, other causes have been found. For example, when mothers come down with Ruebella, or German measles, while they are pregnant, the child may be born with cataracts in one or both eyes, or may develop cataracts soon after birth. Some other infections can cause cataracts at birth—your eye care professional or family doctor may be able to help you determine the cause.

How can it be treated?

Cataracts in newborn babies should be addressed as early as possible, preferably within the first three months of life, because obstructed vision can prevent important stages of their development.

The surgical procedure for cataracts in babies is much like it is for adults, involving the removal of the affected lens in the eye. Depending on your baby’s age and eye development, the surgeon may implant a new, plastic lens to replace the original.

If the baby’s eyes have not reached full development, your baby will need glasses or contact lenses to see. It’s difficult for a baby to wear glasses on a daily basis, so many doctors choose contact lenses as a safer and more practical solution for babies after cataract surgery.

Your doctor may choose to use SilSoft Super Plus contact lenses which are designed for children who have had cataract surgery where an intraocular lens has not been implanted (aphakia). Some patients may qualify for the SilSoft Pediatric Patient Assistance Program (see form(26 KB, PDF)), a program to provide free lenses to families at or below the federal poverty level. Talk to your eye care professional to determine if your family is eligible.