Comm Eye Health Vol. 17 No. 50 2004 pp 22. Published online 01 June 2004.

10 Key messages on childhood cataract

Mohammad Muhit and Clare Gilbert

International Centre for Eye Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London, WC1E 7HT, UK

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What all health workers need to know

  1. Cataract can occur in babies and children – it is not limited only to the elderly.
  2. A child may be born with cataracts (congenital cataract) or s/he may develop cataracts during the first few years of life (developmental cataract).
  3. Cataracts can run in families, and more than one child in the same family can be affected.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Congenital blindness is treatable when it is due to cataract.
  7. Surgery is the only treatment for cataract in children.
  8. 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.
  9. After cataract surgery children may need to wear spectacles. This also applies to babies.
  10. Long term follow-up is essential (unlike cataract surgery in adults), to monitor the vision, to change the glasses, and to manage complications.