Our multidisciplinary team offers a complete check-up of congenital cataracts, in a care program coordinated by Dr. Stéphanie Zwillinger. This pathology is one of the vision disorders that may require eye surgery and is one of the pediatric ophthalmologic emergencies. By reading this article, learn more about congenital cataract, its origins, and its surgical treatment. But above all, you will become aware of the importance of ophthalmologic control for toddlers.

congenital cataract

What is a congenital cataract?

Present at birth, or very soon after, congenital cataracts are an opacification of the crystalline lens. It is one of the pediatric eye diseases for which our ophthalmologist, Dr. Stéphanie Zwillinger, is specialized.

We can observe that the crystalline lens may have a dense white opacity. This opacity prevents the good development of the infant’s vision if it is not removed as it causes an occlusion and prevents the light from entering the eye.

Depending on the location, but also the density of the opacification, it is possible for the ophthalmic surgeon to remedy it. This surgery removes the opaque lens during a surgical procedure.

This is necessary to allow the child, who is still a baby, to have a normal development of their sight. This medical care prevents possible amblyopia, poor vision or even blindness.

Congenital cataracts can affect one or both eyes, which is why it is important to have your baby’s eyes examined at an early age and to consult a pediatric ophthalmologist. The earlier the patient’s treatment begins, the better they are monitored and cared for within the framework of a specialized consultation.

What are the causes of congenital cataracts?

There are several possible causes of congenital cataract:

Cataracts can also occur during pregnancy. If the mother develops infections such as rubella, chickenpox, or measles, which are among the most common causes.

It is also possible that congenital cataracts may not have been diagnosed at an early stage. Some eye conditions are revealed over time. An older child may be diagnosed with a pediatric cataract during a later functional examination. The most common cause of this cataract is a trauma, such as a blow to the eye. 

Dr. Stephanie Zwillinger’s COP9 team would like to draw your attention to the importance of regular eye exams for your child. It is particularly important to have your child treated as soon as possible: by doing so you will ensure the best follow-up care for your child if they are suffering from this pathology…or any other ocular condition.

During your appointment at your optometry center, inform your ophthalmologist about any medical family history that could guide the specialist in their diagnosis.

What is the difference between cataracts and congenital cataracts?

We can categorize cataracts according to their causes:

Cataracts are essentially age-related. It can appear after the age of 55, in a very progressive way. We will talk about this again in a future article. 

When the cataract is present at birth, we speak of congenital cataract, most often hereditary.

The designation cataract / congenital cataract is therefore related to the age at which the pathology appears. It is therefore important to have your eyes examined at any age!

Is there a predisposition to congenital cataracts?

At any age, we can develop a vision problem, which is why it is important to have regular screening with your ophthalmologist. But can one be more fragile when confronted with an eye disease?

Ocular pathologies can occur from birth, such as congenital cataracts or strabismus. People with diabetes are also more likely to develop certain pathologies.

In terms of numbers, congenital cataract affects about 3 out of 10,000 infants. Two-thirds are affected by this disease in both eyes. The most common factor is heredity. Chromosomal abnormalities and metabolic disorders can also explain this.

Unilateral congenital cataract is not related to family medical history and affects healthy children.

Young children, both healthy and with pathologies such as diabetes, being overweight, etc., children with a medical history or with the presence of cataracts in the family, need to take more precautions to ensure healthy eyesight.

Must a congenital cataract be operated on? 

Congenital cataract surgery is not an obligation. Ophthalmic surgery depends on the eye examination and its diagnosis by the specialist who will identify any abnormality in the child’s eye.

There are congenital cataracts that do not justify a rapid surgical operation because the affected part of the crystalline lens does not interfere, or only slightly, with the development of the child’s sight.

On the other hand, there are cases that require cataract surgery under anesthesia, with a brief hospitalization in the ophthalmology department.

Once cataract surgery has been performed, it is essential to continue ophthalmologic check-ups to ensure that vision development is possible and to put in place solutions to help the child. Our COP9 center offers solutions, such as psychomotor therapy or orthoptic sessions, to ensure that your child receives an optimal rehabilitation.

However, ophthalmologic check-ups are essential to verify the evolution of the cataract and the prescription of a good visual correction to prevent the risks of amblyopia.

To conclude this article on congenital cataracts, our COP9 team encourages you to make an appointment with a pediatric ophthalmologist as soon as possible. They will perform an eye exam to screen for any risks. If your infant is experiencing any discomfort, or you notice any problems, do not hesitate to contact us!

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