Congenital cataract : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Definition

A congenital cataract is clouding of the lens of the eye, that is present at birth. The lens of the eye is normally a clear structure, which focuses light received by the eye onto the retina.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

The number of people born with cataracts is low. In most patients, no specific cause can be found. Possible causes of congenital cataracts include the following:

  • Chondrodysplasia syndrome
  • Congenital rubella
  • Conradi syndrome
  • Down syndrome (trisomy 21)
  • Ectodermal dysplasia syndrome
  • Familial congenital cataracts
  • Galactosemia
  • Hallerman-Streiff syndrome
  • Lowe syndrome
  • Marinesco-Sjogren syndrome
  • Pierre-Robin syndrome
  • Trisomy 13

Pictures & Images

Eye

The eye is the organ of sight, a nearly spherical hollow globe filled with fluids (humors). The outer layer or tunic (sclera, or white, and cornea) is fibrous and protective. The middle tunic layer (choroid, ciliary body and the iris) is vascular. The innermost layer (the retina) is nervous or sensory. The fluids in the eye are divided by the lens into the vitreous humor (behind the lens) and the aqueous humor (in front of the lens). The lens itself is flexible and suspended by ligaments which allow it to change shape to focus light on the retina, which is composed of sensory neurons.

Cataract – close-up of the eye

Cataract - close-up of the eye

This photograph shows a cloudy white lens (cataract) over the pupil. Cataracts are a leading cause of decreased vision in older adults, but children may have congenital cataracts. With surgery, the cataract can be removed, a new lens implanted, and the person can usually return home the same day.

Rubella syndrome

Rubella syndrome

Rubella syndrome, or congenital rubella, is a group of physical abnormalities that have developed in an infant as a result of maternal infection and subsequent fetal infection with rubella virus. It is characterized by rash at birth, low birth weight, small head size, heart abnormalities, visual problems and bulging fontanelle.

Cataract

Cataract

The lens of an eye is normally clear. If the lens becomes cloudy (opacified) it is called a cataract.


Review Date : 8/6/2009
Reviewed By : Paul B. Griggs, MD, Department of Ophthalmology, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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