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Alternative Names Return to topCataract - congenital
Definition Return to top
A congenital cataract is clouding of the lens of the eye that is present at birth. The lens of the eye is normally a clear structure, which focuses light received by the eye onto the retina.
Causes Return to top
The number of people born with cataracts is low. In most patients, no specific cause can be found. Possible causes of congenital cataracts include the following:
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
A complete eye examination by an ophthalmologist will readily diagnose congenital cataract. The search for a possible cause may require examination by a pediatrician experienced in hereditary disorders and possible blood tests or x-rays.
Treatment Return to top
In some cases, congenital cataracts are mild and not visually significant, and these cases require no treatment. Moderate to severe cataracts that affect vision will require surgical cataract removal, followed by placement of an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). Patching to force the child to use the weaker eye may be required to prevent amblyopia.
Treatment for any underlying disorder may also be needed.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Cataract removal surgery with placement of an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) is routine, and usually has excellent results.
Possible Complications Return to top
Many of the underlying diseases associated with congenital cataract involve many organs to a great degree.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call for an urgent appointment with your baby's health care provider if you notice that the pupil of one or both eyes appears white or cloudy.
Prevention Return to top
If you have a family history of inheritable disorders that could cause congenital cataracts, consider seeking genetic counseling.
References Return to top
Guercio JR, Martyn LJ. Congenital malformations of the eye and orbit. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 2007 Feb;40(1):113-40, vii.
Olitsky SE, Hug D, and Smith LP. Abnormalities of the lens. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2007; chap 627.Update Date: 8/22/2008 Updated by: Paul B. Griggs, MD, Department of Ophthalmology, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.