Rafed English

Cataracts in Children

Jake likes to visit his Grandma Fran on his way home from school. She always has special treats for him like his favorite homemade chocolate chip cookies, and she takes time to help him with his homework.

Lately, though, Jake's noticed that Grandma Fran has trouble reading some of his assignments. When Jake asked her if anything was wrong, Grandma Fran explained that she has cataracts — her glasses used to help, but now she needs to have an operation that will help her eyes see better again.

An operation sounds scary, right? But many older people like Jake's grandma develop cataracts as they age. Cataract surgery is common and is almost always successful. Let's find out more about it.

What Are Cataracts?

In your eye you have a lens, which is normally clear like a window that has just been cleaned. If that lens gets cloudy, it's called a cataract (say: kah-tuh-rakt). Like a dirty window, a cloudy lens makes it difficult to see well. The person can still see, but it's blurry.

The lens in your eye is made of protein and water. But as people get older, sometimes proteins in the lens stick together and cause cloudiness, or cataracts. At first, a person who has a cataract may not notice any difference in the way he or she sees. But over time, the person may find it harder to read and do other normal tasks. In fact, "cataract" means waterfall in Latin. Why? Because, if you have one, it can be like seeing through a waterfall.

Cataracts almost always happen to people who are older than 50. This is the type of cataract Jake's grandmother has. No need to worry — cataracts aren't contagious, which means you can't get one from someone who has them. In fact, most people will develop cataracts at some point in their lives as they get older. It's a normal aging process of the eye.

Rarely, kids are born with cataracts or develop them while they are babies or during childhood. When kids are born with cataracts, it may be because they inherited the cataracts (through their genes) or got them when they were still developing inside their mom before being born.

Whether the person is young or old, cataract surgery usually solves the problem.

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