A cataract is a condition where the protein in the eye form clumps prevent the lens from sending clear image signals to the retina and then to the brain. It causes blurry vision and cloudiness. A cataract is a common condition and affects 25 per cent of the rural population and 32 per cent of the urban population respectively. It can happen in one eye or both eyes but they usually do not form at the same time. Although cataract largely affects the older population, they can also affect children and are called paediatric cataracts or childhood cataracts. Paediatric cataracts account for 7.4–15.3 per cent of paediatric blindness.
Common myths about pediatric cataracts
Due to the lack of awareness about paediatric cataracts and the high risk of it causing visual disability, it is essential to address the various myths around the ailment and help our children get a better vision.
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Myth 1: Cataracts are a layer of cloudiness over the lens
Fact: Cataracts don’t grow over the lens. Instead, they are permanent changes in the eye’s natural focusing lens. During the surgery of a cataract, the entire clouded lens is removed and a clear artificial lens is implanted.
Myth 2: Cataracts can be cured with lifestyle changes
Fact: Cataracts in children can occur due to multiple reasons. It is impossible to prevent or treat cataracts with lifestyle changes. Cataracts need surgical treatment in children. The timing of surgery depends on the age of the child, and the degree and severity of the cataract.
Myth 3: Only old people get cataracts
Fact: Although ageing can be a factor in developing cataracts, it is not the only cause. Cataracts can occur in young children as well, and is called pediatric cataract. They may be associated with a genetic cause or due to some infections in the mother during pregnancy, trauma to the eye, diabetes, dehydration, abnormal glucose metabolism etc.
Myth 4: Too much screen time or reading causes cataracts
Fact: Long-term screen exposure may cause eye fatigue, concentration difficulties, or dry eyes, but they do not cause cataracts. Cataracts may cause trouble in reading or doing hours of concentrated work like sewing or crafts, but these activities do not cause the lens to deteriorate further.
Myth 5: All cataracts cause blindness if left untreated
Fact: Cataracts, if left untreated not always causes blindness. However, surgical treatment of cataracts needs to be done at an appropriate time to avoid visual deprivation and amblyopia, which is commonly considered a lazy eye. Not all cataracts need to be removed right away, instead, some cataracts in the eye don’t need urgent treatment if they are not causing blurry vision or cloudiness.
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Congenital cataracts need removal as early as 4- 8 weeks and developmental cataracts also need to be tackled sooner after being noted by parents. Any cataract in children less than 7 years of age mandates prompt intervention which if not treated timely leaves a permanent cause for poor vision.
Myth 6: Cataract surgery is dangerous
Fact: Cataract surgery is safe and gets rid of the condition swiftly leaving no vision problems under normal circumstances. After the surgery, the vision begins to improve within a few days and the blurriness fades away as the eye heals and adjusts.