What are cataracts?

Cataracts are cloudy areas that develop in the lens of the eye, which is normally clear so that light can pass through easily. These cataracts may develop in one or both eyes, and if in both eyes, one eye will often be more severely affected than the other. 
A cataract can be congenital (a person is born with it) or can be acquired or developmental (it appears later in childhood or in adulthood).
Here is a wonderful video by Tatiana McCabe of New York City, filmed at and around Islamia.  This video can be found on http://vimeo.com/45602328.

Childhood cataracts

There are also Congenital Cataracts (childhood cataracts) which may be present when the baby is born, or may be discovered shortly after birth. Cataracts may also develop in older babies and children - these are referred to as developmental, infantile or juvenile cataracts.

How to tell if your child has a cataract

Have your child's eyes examined by an ophthalmologist, a medical eye doctor, if:
   — you notice a white spot on your child's eye(s)
   — a parent or sibling had a cataract as a child (not as an older adult)
   — your child has eye problems or another disease or condition in which cataracts are likely to be present
   — your family doctor or paediatrician recommends an eye exam because of a concern about possible cataracts
   — your child's eyes are crossed -there is a concern about your child's vision.

If there is a family history of cataracts in childhood, bring your child to an ophthalmologist before he is two weeks old.

Causes of cataracts

Many people throughout the world suffer from age-related cataracts, but these cataracts are particularly common in India and Bangladesh. In addition, in these countries, cataracts give problems at a younger age than in western and more developed countries (at or before 50 years.) 

Common causes include:
   — heredity (inheriting a cataract from a parent)
   — trauma (injury) to the eye
   — radiation (treatment for cancer)
   — medication (for example steroids)
   — other illnesses or conditions (for example Down syndrome)
   — infection (for example German measles).

In many cases, however, the cause of a cataract is not known.