There are a number of reasons why a child may be born with cataracts or develop them while they're still young.
However,in many cases it's not possible to determine the exact cause. Some of the main causes of childhood cataracts are described below.
Cataracts present from birth (congenital cataracts) are sometimes caused bya faulty gene being passed to a child fromtheir parents. This fault means that the lens doesn't develop properly.
It's estimated that there's a family history of congenital cataracts inaround one in every five cases of the condition,and recent research suggests genetic causes are responsible for the majority of bilateral congenital cataracts in the UK.
Cataracts can also be associated with conditions caused by chromosome abnormalities, such as Trisomy 21 . Chromosomes are the parts of the body's cells that carry the genes.
Congenital cataracts can also be caused by infections caught by the mother during pregnancy. The main infections linked to an increased risk of congenital cataracts include:
Cataracts that develop in children after they're born are known as acquired, infantile or juvenile cataracts.
Causes of this type of cataracts can include:
However, most of these problems are either rare or don't usually cause cataracts to develop in children.
Find out about childhood cataracts which occur when changes in the lens of the eye cause it to become less transparent, resulting in blurred or misty vision.
Symptoms of childhood cataracts can vary depending on how cloudy the lens is, where the cloudiness is in the lens and whether one or both eyes are affected.
Read about the possible causes of childhood cataracts including genes and genetic conditions and infections during pregnancy, such as rubella, chickenpox and toxoplasmosis.
Find out how childhood cataracts are diagnosed with the help of newborn screening, vision tests during early childhood and referral to an ophthalmologist (eye specialist).
Read about the treatment options for childhood cataracts. Cataract surgery will usually only be recommended if your child's vision is affected.
Read about the complications of cataract surgery, including posterior capsule opacification (PCO) where part of the lens capsule thickens, causing cloudy vision.