Eye diseases common in adulthood also seen in children

Causes, treatment vary for children with eye diseases

DORAL, Fla. - From the time she was born, 15-year-old Gaby Sallai has seen the world around her differently than many children.

"I think I see like normal people but I can't really tell," said Sallai.

Sallai was born with cataracts that had to be surgically removed.

"My doctor was in shock because it usually develops a couple of years after cataracts," Sallai said.

Dr. Roberto Warman, a pediatric ophthalmologist with Miami Children's Hospital, said there are a variety of eye conditions that can affect children from infancy through the teen years.

"Some are very serious and some are mild," said Warman.

What many don't realize is that infants and children can also be affected by cataracts, the most common ophthalmic condition seen in adults. Children with certain health issues, such as down syndrome, have a higher risk of developing cataracts. 

"Cataracts can also be caused by trauma to the eye and some children have a genetic predisposition to developing cataracts," said Warman.

Children with cataracts have a higher risk of developing glaucoma, which requires surgical correction. Warning signs can include a white dot in the eye, constant tearing, and light sensitivity.

"The parent has to know to recognize changes in their child's eye and they have to bring that to the attention of their pediatrician. The pediatrician will then send them to the specialist," said Warman.

Sallai developed glaucoma when she was 11. Surgical correction helped preserve her peripheral vision but she still needs special contacts to see.

"I see colors and if I get up close and personal, I can see probably features but I can't really see without my contacts," she said.

Children can also suffer from macular degeneration, an age-related condition typically seen only in people over 40.

Annual eye exams can help diagnose eye problems early and potentially prevent further damage.

To reach Warman, call: 305-662-8390.

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