A cataract is any opacity of the eye’s natural lens (crystalline), which is usually transparent. There are many types of cataracts. Some are small and do not affect vision; others are big and cause severe loss. Its incidence varies all over the world.
Light enters the eye and is projected to the retina, which detects it and transmits a signal to the brain. A cataract may prevent light to reach retina and consequently affect vision. For developing proper vision, a child must have full light in the retina so that brain can get a sharp image. If cataract blocks light on a significant level, it will then limit the child’s visual development and result in serious amblyopia. Rapid and sometimes immediate treatment (through surgery) is needed to avoid permanent and irreversible vision loss (differently from adults).
Congenital cataract usually occurs due to the abnormal development of crystalline during pregnancy. Cataracts may result from genetic disorders or infections or may appear spontaneously. Malformations of crystalline lens occurring together with systemic disorders (in other organs) are frequently result of genetic or metabolic problems. These cataracts might either be present at birth or develop during childhood. Most of paediatric cataracts are isolated breakthroughs with no association to other pathologies.
Not all types of congenital cataracts demand surgery. Small cataracts without significant interference in the passage of light can be carefully and frequently monitored. In such cases, eyeglasses and/or occlusive patches may be useful to stimulate visual development, thus delaying or avoiding surgery at all.