A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of the eye. The lens is located inside the eye behind the iris (the colored part of the eye). It helps focus light and images on the retina, the lining of the back of your eye, so that you can see clearly. If the lens gets cloudy, it can cause trouble seeing.
What causes cataracts is not known, but many things may make cataracts more likely to form, such as:
A child may be born with cataracts or develop them at an early age. These cataracts, called congenital cataracts, may be caused by:
They also may be inherited.
Cataracts don't spread from one eye to the other, but many people have cataracts in both eyes. The cataract can be worse in one eye compared to the other.
Symptoms may include:
Cataracts do not usually cause complete blindness. However, it is possible to lose enough vision to make it hard to recognize objects.
Cataracts are often found during a routine eye exam. An eye care provider will evaluate your symptoms and talk with you about the best treatment.
Cataracts in young children may need to be removed to help prevent other eye problems. Cataracts in children may be linked to other problems with the eyes, such as retinal disease or glaucoma. This means the vision may not get better after cataracts are removed.
Cataract surgery is done to remove the cloudy lens if the cataract is keeping your child’s vision from developing normally. A very young child may be prescribed contact lenses or glasses instead of putting in a plastic lens until the child is older
Surgery to remove cataracts can be very successful in restoring vision if the rest of eye is normal. Although a cataract cannot grow back, your child may develop a cloudy film over the thin, clear membrane that holds the new plastic lens in place. This membrane can be taken care of with a laser if your child is old enough, or with surgery if your child is too young to have the laser procedure.
Having your child wear goggles or safety glasses during activities where your child’s eyes could be injured can lower the risk of eye injuries. This can prevent the possible development of cataracts. Wearing glasses with a UV coating that protects the eyes from sunlight might prevent or delay some types of cataracts, but this is not proven.
If your child has diabetes, good blood glucose control may slow the growth of cataracts.