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Congenital cataract

Cataract - congenital

 

A congenital cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye that is present at birth. The lens of the eye is normally clear. It focuses light that comes into the eye onto the retina.

Causes

 

Unlike most cataracts, which occur with aging, congenital cataracts are present at birth.

Congenital cataracts are rare. In most people, no cause can be found.

Congenital cataracts often occur as part of the following birth defects:

  • Chondrodysplasia syndrome
  • Congenital rubella
  • Conradi-Hünermann syndrome
  • Down syndrome (trisomy 21)
  • Ectodermal dysplasia syndrome
  • Familial congenital cataracts
  • Galactosemia
  • Hallermann-Streiff syndrome
  • Lowe syndrome
  • Marinesco-Sjögren syndrome
  • Pierre-Robin syndrome
  • Trisomy 13

 

Symptoms

 

Congenital cataracts most often look different than other forms of cataract.

Symptoms may include:

  • An infant does not seem to be visually aware of the world around him or her (if cataracts are in both eyes)
  • Gray or white cloudiness of the pupil (which is normally black)
  • The "red eye" glow of the pupil is missing in photos, or is different between the 2 eyes
  • Unusual rapid eye movements (nystagmus)

 

Exams and Tests

 

To diagnose congenital cataract, the infant should have a complete eye exam by an ophthalmologist. The infant may also need to be examined by a pediatrician who is experienced in treating inherited disorders. Blood tests or x-rays may also be needed.

 

Treatment

 

If congenital cataracts are mild and do not affect vision, they may not need to be treated, especially if they are in both eyes.

Moderate to severe cataracts that affect vision, or a cataract that is in only 1 eye, will need to be treated with cataract removal surgery. In most (noncongenital) cataract surgeries, an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) is inserted into the eye. The use of IOLs in infants is controversial. Without an IOL, the infant will need to wear a contact lens.

Patching to force the child to use the weaker eye is often needed to prevent amblyopia.

The infant may also need to be treated for the inherited disorder that is causing the cataracts.

 

Outlook (Prognosis)

 

Removing a congenital cataract is usually a safe, effective procedure. The child will need follow-up for vision rehabilitation. Most infants have some level of "lazy eye" (amblyopia) before the surgery and will need to use patching.

 

Possible Complications

 

With cataract surgery there is a very slight risk of:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Inflammation

Infants who have surgery for congenital cataracts are likely to develop another type of cataract, which may need further surgery or laser treatment.

Many of the diseases that are associated with congenital cataract can also affect other organs.

 

When to Contact a Medical Professional

 

Call for an urgent appointment with your baby's health care provider if:

  • You notice that the pupil of 1 or both eyes appears white or cloudy.
  • The child seems to ignore part of their visual world.

 

Prevention

 

If you have a family history of inheritable disorders that could cause congenital cataracts, consider seeking genetic counseling.

 

 

References

Dahan E. Pediatric cataract surgery. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 5.13.

Heitmancik JF, Datilles M. Congenital and inherited cataracts. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Ophthalmology. 16th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013:chap 74.

Junk AK, Morris DA. Cataracts and systemic disease. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Ophthalmology. 16th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013:chap 41.

 
  • Eye

    Eye - illustration

    The eye is the organ of sight, a nearly spherical hollow globe filled with fluids (humors). The outer layer or tunic (sclera, or white, and cornea) is fibrous and protective. The middle tunic layer (choroid, ciliary body and the iris) is vascular. The innermost layer (the retina) is nervous or sensory. The fluids in the eye are divided by the lens into the vitreous humor (behind the lens) and the aqueous humor (in front of the lens). The lens itself is flexible and suspended by ligaments which allow it to change shape to focus light on the retina, which is composed of sensory neurons.

    Eye

    illustration

  • Cataract - close-up of the eye

    Cataract - close-up of the eye - illustration

    This photograph shows a cloudy white lens (cataract) as seen through the pupil. Cataracts are a leading cause of decreased vision in older adults, but children may have congenital cataracts. With surgery, the cataract can be removed, a new lens implanted, and the person can usually return home the same day.

    Cataract - close-up of the eye

    illustration

  • Rubella Syndrome

    Rubella Syndrome - illustration

    Rubella syndrome, or congenital rubella, is a group of physical abnormalities that have developed in an infant as a result of maternal infection and subsequent fetal infection with rubella virus. It is characterized by rash at birth, low birth weight, small head size, heart abnormalities, visual problems and bulging fontanelle.

    Rubella Syndrome

    illustration

  • Cataract

    Cataract - illustration

    The lens of an eye is normally clear. If the lens becomes cloudy (opacified) it is called a cataract.

    Cataract

    illustration

    • Eye

      Eye - illustration

      The eye is the organ of sight, a nearly spherical hollow globe filled with fluids (humors). The outer layer or tunic (sclera, or white, and cornea) is fibrous and protective. The middle tunic layer (choroid, ciliary body and the iris) is vascular. The innermost layer (the retina) is nervous or sensory. The fluids in the eye are divided by the lens into the vitreous humor (behind the lens) and the aqueous humor (in front of the lens). The lens itself is flexible and suspended by ligaments which allow it to change shape to focus light on the retina, which is composed of sensory neurons.

      Eye

      illustration

    • Cataract - close-up of the eye

      Cataract - close-up of the eye - illustration

      This photograph shows a cloudy white lens (cataract) as seen through the pupil. Cataracts are a leading cause of decreased vision in older adults, but children may have congenital cataracts. With surgery, the cataract can be removed, a new lens implanted, and the person can usually return home the same day.

      Cataract - close-up of the eye

      illustration

    • Rubella Syndrome

      Rubella Syndrome - illustration

      Rubella syndrome, or congenital rubella, is a group of physical abnormalities that have developed in an infant as a result of maternal infection and subsequent fetal infection with rubella virus. It is characterized by rash at birth, low birth weight, small head size, heart abnormalities, visual problems and bulging fontanelle.

      Rubella Syndrome

      illustration

    • Cataract

      Cataract - illustration

      The lens of an eye is normally clear. If the lens becomes cloudy (opacified) it is called a cataract.

      Cataract

      illustration

    A Closer Look

     

      Talking to your MD

       

        Tests for Congenital cataract

         

           

          Review Date: 8/11/2015

          Reviewed By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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