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Episode 1: The Baby's Brain - Infant Cataracts FAQ
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When an older person has a cataract in one eye, the threat of "use it or lose it" does not apply since the connections in the brain have already been made.

5. Is there a known cause of congenital cateracts?

The most common cause of congenital cataracts is a gene abnormality. However, our techniques for gene testing are not yet so well developed that we can make this assertion in every case. If there is a history of congenital cataracts in the family, then we certainly know there is a gene problem that has been inherited. Other causes of congenital cataracts include genetic abnormalities which affect other parts of the body as well (syndromes) or infections acquired in the womb.

6. How is a cateract removed? Is the procedure the same for infants and adults?

Removing a cataract requires removing the entire lens of the eye. A small microscopic incision is made in the outer coat of the eyeball, and an instrument is used to open the protective capsule of the lens. The lens (containing the cataract) is then removed. Sometimes, an artificial lens (intraocular lens, IOL) might be inserted in place of the natural lens. Other children will be rehabilitated using contact lenses or glasses. The natural lens of children is much softer than the lens of adults and therefore a different machine is usually used rather than the ultrasound machine needed to break up the harder adult lens. Children's eyeballs tend to be softer and their tissue more elastic giving the surgery its own special challenges.

7. Is there any chance that cateracts can re-appear?

Since the entire lens of the eye is removed, cataracts cannot recur. However, residual lens cells, which are left behind, may regrow causing abnormal lens tissue to block the vision again. In addition, remnants of the lens capsule can grow causing scarring in the line of vision. Although not true cataracts, these two conditions may require laser treatment or surgery to remove the visual blurring.

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