What Parents Need to Know About Traumatic Cataracts
As a parent, you feel responsible for the safety and well-being of your child. However, you cannot control every situation your child is in, and some incidents could result in trauma to the eyes. Sports involvement, car accidents, and rough play can all lead to an eye injury. Cataracts can develop from direct injuries, so you should be aware of what situations can cause eye trauma and how to handle them.
Main Causes of Traumatic Cataracts
Trauma can occur in a variety of ways. Some of these causes are more common than others, but understanding the different ones can help parents pinpoint which incident (or incidents) led to eye problems. The 4 main causes of traumatic cataracts are:
- Blunt Force: An object hitting your child's face can cause enough trauma to develop visual problems. Playing sports and getting hit in the head, being in a biking or car accident, and falling into a large object are all examples of blunt force. Keep in mind that these incidents can cause other difficulties that need to be addressed, as well. Trauma is often accompanied by a concussion or brain damage.
- Penetrating Object: An object that penetrates the eye can cause scarring or buildup in the eye which results in a cataract. An object causes acute pain and swelling which can lead to permanent vision loss when not treated quickly enough.
- Electricity Encounter: Electric shock and lightning strikes are less common forms of eye trauma, but they do exist. As part of the medical examination following an encounter with electricity, schedule an eye examination with an ophthalmologist to ensure no visual damage was sustained.
- Radiation Exposure: Too much exposure to ionizing radiation (used in cancer treatment and X-rays) is harmful to the body. Infrared radiation can also cause harm. These cataracts are typically slower to develop, so regular exams following radiation treatments and exposure are extremely important.
What Parents Should Do After Traumatic Incidents
It's impossible for parents to prevent their children from ever getting hurt. But responding appropriately to an injury is completely possible. These steps are essential to identifying and treating cataracts caused by trauma:
- Document the Incident: As much as you are able, document what type of trauma occurred, how long between the incident and your child getting medical attention, date and time of incident, and how old your child was at the time. Other important pieces of information are which doctors your child saw and what immediate treatment was provided (visual exam, medicine, surgery, etc.).
- Get an Initial Appointment: Take your child to an optometrist as soon as you are able if you suspect eye damage. This initial assessment is important for documenting the incident as well as monitoring any changes that develop over time.
- Maintain Annual Appointments: Your child needs to see an optometrist annually. Working with your eye doctor, you can catch developing cataracts early and treat them before they hinder your child's performance in school, sports, driving, and other extracurricular activities.
- Watch if Symptoms to Worsen: Some cataracts develop quickly following an injury, and others may take years to manifest. Familiarize yourself with symptoms that indicate a cataract so you can recognize them if they start developing. Symptoms include blurred or double vision, a glare that impedes night vision, difficulty discerning colors, and drastic changes in prescription.
- Discuss Treatment Options: The only sure treatment for cataracts is surgery. However, if minor complications occur due to traumatic cataracts (such as occasional swelling and irritation), eye drops may be prescribed to alleviate these discomforts. If vision problems develop, surgery should be considered.
Children can develop cataracts at a young age, especially if they are active. Consider the ways your child might sustain trauma to the eyes and what you can do to prevent lasting damage. Remember that annual visits to an optometrist is an important part of prevention and treatment. For more information, check it out online or by contacting a professional.