At Eye Consultants of Atlanta, we’ve spent over fifty years earning the trust of patients across the Atlanta metro area, and children are no exception. We are committed to delivering the very best vision for our patients — especially when it comes to the youngest in our care.
Any undiagnosed visual condition can cause a child’s vision to worsen and his or her overall development to be stunted, particularly in the early stages as they are “learning to see.” An undiagnosed condition may also possibly lead to behavioral misdiagnoses that can have a harmful ripple effect on the rest of your child’s life.
Pediatric cataracts are some of the most difficult cases in ophthalmology, but Eye Consultants of Atlanta has three doctors for whom they are a specialty. From diagnosis and treatment planning, to cataract surgery, recovery, and follow-ups, the entire team at Eye Consultants of Atlanta is dedicated to ensuring your child’s best vision for years to come.
Our team features three pediatric cataract experts (Marc Greenberg, M.D., Mark Bordenca, M.D., and Shivani Sethi, M.D.) — in a field where few ophthalmologists perform this highly specialized surgery.
Our pediatric cataract surgeries are also conducted at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite, alongside caring and highly-trained pediatric anesthesiologists. So your child will be treated with the highest level of care across the board.
Any eye surgery carries inherent risks, and fearing for your child’s well-being may add to your concerns. So start by choosing the pediatric cataract team you can trust to do things right.
A cataract is a natural clouding of the eye lens, which is normally entirely clear. People often believe that cataracts can only happen in elderly patients, but they can occur in children as well: approximately three out of every 10,000 throughout the world.
There are many types of cataracts. Some are so small or off center in the lens, that they do not interfere with your child’s vision or development. But others may cause severe vision loss.
Children can either be born with a cataract (congenital), or develop one later (acquired).
Congenital cataracts occur in approximately a quarter of cases, for a variety of reasons that result in poor formation of the eye. Abnormal lens development during pregnancy due to a metabolic, hormonal, or chromosomal abnormality (such as Down syndrome) is one of the most common causes. These cataracts may be present at birth, or develop over the course of childhood. Family history (especially a parent who also had a cataract in childhood) also influences congenital cases.
Acquired cataracts are caused by abnormal interactions within the proteins which compose the lens structure, resulting in the formation of specks or cloudy areas. They may be caused by:
The remaining percentage of pediatric cataracts occur for no known reason, making them idiopathic.
An eye with a cataract can’t provide visual information to the brain. If this occurs in very early stages of a baby’s development, while the brain is “learning to see,” the brain may eventually adapt to ignore input from that eye completely. This means that your child may never be able to see with that eye, even if the cataract is eventually removed, as healthy vision is established only when the brain and the eye are working in tandem together.
Determining whether a cataract needs to be removed requires a great deal of experience and expertise, so it’s crucial that your child be evaluated by an eye doctor who sees many babies and children with cataracts.
Any cataract interfering with your child’s healthy vision should be removed as soon as is safely possible, especially if it is present at birth. Miniscule cataracts that do not seem likely to affect healthy vision should be carefully and frequently monitored, and then removed at the earliest sign it is causing vision difficulty.
If a cataract is very small or off center, wearing glasses and/or utilizing a patch may keep your child’s vision developing normally, thereby delaying the need for surgery until they are older, or erasing the need for it completely.
While your child is under anesthesia, surgeons make a tiny incision in the eye, allowing the surgeon to create an opening in the front of the lens capsule. Next, the soft and clouded inner part of the lens is gently suctioned out. Depending on their age, a vitrectomy may also be required, which involves a second opening in the posterior lens capsule, allowing for vitreous gel removal.
If necessary, an intraocular lens (IOL) will then be placed within the empty lens capsule. Generally, this is not done for a patient less than one year old. The IOL can be inserted either during the removal surgery, or in a second subsequent surgery. In all cases, the incision in the lens is then closed with dissolvable stitches.
After cataract surgery, most children will need glasses. Once babies can sit up on their own, their glasses prescription may be changed to bifocals in order to help them better focus both up close and far away. If only one eye is affected, wearing an eye patch to strengthen the weaker eye may be recommended. Your pediatric cataract surgeon will work closely with you to determine the best treatment.