Growth Charts
Possible Newborn Health Problems
Heart Defects
Gastro-intestinal Tract Disorders
Duodenal Atresia
Hirschsprung's Disease
Imperforate Anus
Tracheo-oesophageal Fistula
Congenital Cataracts
Unusual Blood Results

Congenital Cataracts

Congenital cataracts occur when a baby is born with cloudiness in the lens at the front of the eye.

A unilateral cataract occurs in one eye, bilateral cataracts in both eyes.
When the lens is transparent, as usual, it lets through light so the baby can see clearly and develop normal eyesight.

When the lens is cloudy with cataracts, less light gets through and blurred images are formed, the baby cannot see clearly and normal eyesight cannot develop.

If not treated, a baby with large cataracts may have squinting or jerky eye movements (nystagmus) and permanently damaged eyesight.

All new babies with Down syndrome are tested for the red-reflex. A doctor shines a light from an ophthalmoscope at the baby’s eye and usually the retina at the back of the eye looks red . Babies with cataracts have no red-reflex.

Cataracts usually need to be treated surgically in the first few weeks of life.

The lens from the eye is removed.

After the operation, the baby wears special glasses or contact lenses.

If only one eye has cataracts, the lens from this eye is removed and the other eye is covered (patched).

This forces the eye, which had the cataracts to be used, which develops its vision.

Surgery may not be needed for small cataracts; it may be enough to dilate the pupil with eye drops, so more light gets through.

Babies with cataracts need to continue seeing an ophthalmologist often to check their eyesight remains as clear as possible.