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Congenital Cataracts in Newborns

Congenital cataracts are reported to occur in 2-3 children per 10,000 live births. A cataract is a cloudy area on the lens of the eye.Cataracts in babies and young children must be diagnosed early and treated urgently because they can have a lasting effect on vision development.A cataract can block light from getting into the eye, at a time when the eye and brain are working together to learn to see.A failure to timely correct the cataract could result in a permanent loss of vision.

All newborns should be screened for cataracts immediately following birth and at their initial pediatric office visits. This exam can provide the first clue that an infant or child has a vision problem requiring a referral to a pediatric ophthalmologist, a doctor specializing in the treatment of eye disease in children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that Infants or you children with a family history of congenital cataracts be referred to a pediatric ophthalmologist for evaluation even if the newborn examination appears normal.

The medical literature suggests that cataracts which interfere with a child's vision should be removed as soon as is safely possible, especially if the cataract is present at birth, since a delay in cataract removal can interfere with normal development of the visual parts of the brain. Without early intervention, congenital cataracts can lead to problems such as blurred vision or a "lazy eye". Vision problems can impact a child's learning ability, personality and appearance.

The critical period for vision development is in the first few months of life. Cataract surgery performed by an experienced surgeon is generally very safe.Children with congenital cataracts have a good prognosis if treated within the first two months of life.

In pregnancies where there is a family history of congenital cataracts it is recommended that screening for cataracts be performed during routine second trimester ultrasound.Visualization of the fetal eyes and lenses should be included in the routine assessment of facial anatomy to look for early signs of cataracts, or other problems.

Parents with a family history of congenital cataracts should be certain to alert their physicians and those caring for their newborns of this history.  If you have any concerns regarding the medical care your child received, please feel free to contact one of the lawyers at Mitchell, Hoffman and Wolf.


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