Most cataracts are age-related eye problems and affect people age 50 and older. But cataracts also can be present at or near birth. In these instances, the lens opacities are called congenital cataracts.
Early treatment of congenital cataracts is essential for normal vision development and to prevent amblyopia or blindness.
Researchers in England recently investigated the current status of cataract surgery performed in the UK and Ireland for children age two years and younger.
Surveys were sent to 928 ophthalmologists, with a response rate of roughly 75 percent.
Findings of the study included:
- 47 of the respondents (7 percent) performed congenital cataract surgery on children age 2 and younger.
- Among those performing the surgery, 41 (87 percent) performed primary intraocular lens (IOL) implantation in these children.
- One quarter of respondents said they would not implant an IOL in a child under 1 year old.
Other reasons surgeons provided for not performing primary IOL implantation included the presence of other eye conditions, including microphthalmos (70% of respondents), anterior eye problems (52 percent), posterior eye anomalies (61 percent), and glaucoma (19 percent).
Microphthalmos is a developmental anomaly characterized by one or both eyes being abnormally small.
The researchers concluded that surgery for congenital cataracts with IOL implantation in children age 2 years and younger has been widely adopted in the UK and Ireland by the relatively small number of ophthalmologists who manage these children.
Among these ophthalmologists, there is general agreement concerning surgical technique, choice of IOL design and the formula used for IOL power calculation. But variation exists in eligibility criteria for IOL implantation, and this may reflect a lack of consensus on which children are most likely to benefit from it and the risks involved.
The researchers also said there is a need for systematic studies of the outcomes of primary IOL implantation in younger children.
Source: Cataract surgery and primary intraocular lens implantation in children 2 years old in the United Kingdom and Ireland: findings of national surveys. British Journal of Ophthalmology. Published online June 16, 2009.