MUSC researchers find that it is especially important for diabetic children
to get regular eye exams starting at a young age
Every year more than 13,000 children develop diabetes (high blood sugar) severe enough to require treatment with insulin. For more than 200 of those children, cataracts will also occur as a result of the high blood sugar. Cataract is the term used to describe any clouding that occurs in the lens of the eye, which is located behind the pupil. Like a camera, the eye requires a clear lens to focus the light coming in to the eye. Cataracts occur commonly in older persons as a result of aging. Cataracts are rare in children but they can occur at any age from disease, injury, errors in development or family genes. The Storm Eye Institute at MUSC is one of the nation’s top referral centers for the treatment of childhood cataracts from birth throughout the growing years.
Dr. M. Edward Wilson, Pediatric ophthalmologist and the Director of the Storm Eye Institute at MUSC has recently published a scientific article on a large group of children who developed cataracts as a result of diabetes. Although this has been the subject of previous research, Dr. Wilson and his team were the first to investigate such a large group of children, making the results more useful for the community and other healthcare professionals. The cataracts (28 eyes of 14 children) caused vision loss at an average age of 11 years. Half of these children presented with vision changes before or during their initial high blood sugar episode. Cataracts from diabetes may remain mild or may progress rapidly, causing the eye’s red reflex to become dull or white. In these severe diabetes cataracts, the vision is reduced to light/dark or hand movements only.
The good news is that treatment for childhood cataracts is very successful. The lens of the eye is removed and an artificial lens implant is put in its place. Normal vision was restored in every patient in this report except the one who developed changes in the retina from diabetes. Laser treatment was required in that child to reduce the blood vessel changes known as “diabetic retinopathy”. For this reason, every child with diabetes needs regular eye examinations throughout life.
Wilson M Edward; Levin Alex V; Trivedi Rupal H; Kruger Stacey J; Elliott Laurie A; Ainsworth John R; Awner Steven; Cruz Oscar A; Kivlin Jane; Vroman David T; Young William O. Cataract associated with type-1 diabetes mellitus in the pediatric population. Journal of AAPOS : the official publication of the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus / American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. 2007;11(2):162-5.