Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and blindness. Undiagnosed glaucoma can lead to lifelong visual impairment, but with early detection and treatment, you can protect your child against serious vision loss.
Secondary glaucoma can also occur at any time during childhood. This type of glaucoma can be associated with abnormal ocular conditions, such as aniridia, or can be part of a systemic disease such as Sturge-Weber syndrome, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, Axenfeld-Rieger syndrome or Marfan syndrome. Secondary glaucoma can also develop after trauma or treatment with steroids.
Glaucoma is rare in children, and the signs and symptoms of pediatric glaucoma are often different from those in adults. Congenital glaucoma, also called infantile glaucoma, is most often diagnosed within the first year of life and occurs in 1 in every 10,000 births in the United States.
Parents are the key to early diagnosis and treatment. Signs to look for in children include:
Timely diagnosis and appropriate care offer the best chance of preventing vision loss.
Parents who notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, or have any reason to suspect that something might be wrong with their child’s eyes should take their child to a pediatric ophthalmologist. Treatment by a pediatric ophthalmologist is crucial as many of the tools used to diagnose glaucoma in adults fail to detect the disease in children.
Depending on the age of the child, the ophthalmologist will use tonometry to measure inner eye pressure, ophthalmoscopy to evaluate the shape and color of the optic nerve, perimetry to check the field of vision, gonioscopy to examine the angle in the eye where the iris meets the cornea, and pachymetry to evaluate the thickness of the cornea.
Treatments for childhood glaucoma include medications and surgery, depending on the cause of the disease. Regular follow-up is crucial even after glaucoma has been controlled. With timely treatment and periodic follow-up to monitor vision changes and other eye functions, many children go on to live normal lives with good vision.
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