Glow of the Month: Congenital Cataracts

Posted on 2019-08-15

This month, Know The Glow is highlighting congenital cataracts — specifically visually significant congenital cataracts, which affects three to four newborns per 10,000 births in the United States and is the cause of 10 percent of childhood permanent blindness worldwide.

Doctors in developed countries usually screen newborns for congenital (present at birth) cataracts, but even the most vigilant parents and doctors can miss the signs, making a follow up appointment essential to the vision health of your baby. Our own superhero, Mercy Grace, is a perfect example! Mercy, whose family has a long history of vision concerns, was lucky to have a vigilant mother. Initially, doctors didn’t detect any vision problem. But the day before Mercy’s two-week checkup, her mother Jessica noticed a white spot in Mercy’s pupil when the sun from the window shone on it.

Cataracts occur when the eye lens clouds over, and this affects vision. While most cataracts are age-related (by age 80 most have experienced cataracts), it is also a condition that newborns can experience. This problem can occur in one eye (unilateral) or both eyes (bilateral), although it does not spread from one eye to the other. 

Fortunately, cataracts are one of the most common and treatable causes of visual impairment — as long as the newborn receives quick and specialized medical intervention.

A specialist told Jessica to “give it time” to see how the eye problem developed, but Jessica got a second opinion. She quickly received a diagnosis of bilateral congenital cataracts. Mercy was exactly one month old. About six weeks later, Mercy underwent a lensectomy in both eyes, followed by a series of eight surgeries for various cataract-related conditions.

We are delighted to say that Mercy enjoys overall good vision, despite some amblyopia, a common side effect of cataracts. Thank you, Jessica, for your vigilance.

Remember to schedule a red reflex test for your baby, toddler, or child. It’s never too soon to verify your child’s vision health.

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