DESCRIPTIONA cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye. The lens is a crystal-clear, flexible structure near the front of the eyeball. It helps to keep vision in focus, and screens and refracts light rays. The lens has no blood supply. It is nourished by the vitreous (the watery substance that surrounds it). Cataracts may form in one or both eyes. If they form in both eyes, their growth rate may be very different. Cataracts are not cancerous. All ages are affected. Some infants are born with congenital cataracts.
Appropriate health care includes:
Doctor's (ophthalmologist's) treatment.
Surgery to remove the lens.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSBlurred vision that may be worse in bright light. The blurring may first become apparent while driving at night, when lights seem to scatter or have halos.
Double vision (occasionally).
Opaque, milky-white pupil (advanced stages only).
CAUSESInjury to the eye.
Illnesses associated with high blood sugar, such as diabetes mellitus.
Inflammation, such as uveitis (See Glossary).
Drugs, especially cortisone and its derivatives.
Exposure to X-rays, microwaves, and infrared radiation.
Hereditary causes, including the effect of German measles on the unborn child of a mother who contracts the disease early in her pregnancy.
Galactosemia (See Glossary) in an infant.
Exposure to any causes listed above.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Women of childbearing age should be vaccinated against German measles if they have not had the disease or been immunized.
The use of cortisone drugs or any others that affect the eye lens should be monitored carefully by a doctor.
Eye disorders that may cause cataract formation, such as iritis and uveitis, should receive prompt medical treatment.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Loss of vision.
Postoperative complications, including rupture of the eye, adhesions, infections, and retinal detachment.
Usually curable with surgery. Some cataracts never impair vision enough to require surgery. During the time cataracts are forming, frequent eyeglass changes may help vision.
HOME CARESpecial eyeglasses or contact lenses will be needed after surgery.
MEDICATIONMedicine usually is not necessary for this disorder.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
No restrictions, except that your child should not drive at night if vision is poor.
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When appetite returns and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your newborn baby or older child has symptoms of cataracts.