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Eye and Vision Care

Septo Optic Dysplasia and Cataracts

03/29/2011

Question:

Hello, I have recently found out that my 12 year old daughter has cataracts in both eyes. I am upset as I always thought her condition (septo optic dysplasia) was stable. She is totally blind in one eye but has useful vision in her other eye 6/60 on the snellen scale and extensive visual field loss. I am worried that the cataract could develop and impede that useful vision that she has got. Her consultant said that they are on the periphery of her vision. I would like to know the chances of cataracts getting worse and also why have they occurred. She has not had the back of her eyes looked at for a couple of years previously. I wonder if she has had them for a long time and they have only just been discovered. Old consultant has retired a while back and saw the new one (2 previous yearly visits saw the registrar). I don`t know much about cataracts or the surgery that can fix it if they do get worse. Some advice would be greatly appreciated.

Answer:

Cataract is a condition which affects the lens of the eye. As you probably/hopefully were told at your daughter's most recent eye exam, the normally crystal clear lens becomes opacified or cloudy. This can certainly decrease someone's vision, but fortunately a cataract is relatively easily removed via surgery. Ocular surgery is certainly a scary thought, but cataract removal occurs thousands of times per day as it is very common among the elderly population.

The way in which you have described the findings from your daughter's most recent exam, suggests that the cataracts are mild and certainly do not need to be removed at this time. This is because the cataract formation is on the edge (periphery) of the lens and not in the center.

In terms of progression, it is very hard to predict the actual time in which the cataract will become visually significant. It may be 6 months or many years. It is simply too difficult to predict, especially in a patient who is as young as your daughter. It is certainly rare to have cataracts at her age, but it is probably not directly linked to the septo-optic dysplasia.

You certainly may also be correct in that the cataract may have been present for years. This would be difficult to know unless the eye doctor dilated the eyes and documented the finding.

Since the doctor from your most recent exam stated that they are not visually significant at this time, I would encourage you not to worry too much. Make sure that your daughter gets her annual exams, or earlier visits if specified by the eye doctor. If the cataract does become visually significant, then cataract surgery would be necessary. As mentioned above, cataract surgery is a routine procedure with typically very good outcomes.

I hope this helps and if you need further information please feel free to ask.

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Response by:

Aaron  Zimmerman, OD, MS Aaron Zimmerman, OD, MS
Clinical Associate Professor of Optometry
College of Optometry
The Ohio State University