Glaucoma is a condition that causes increased pressure in the eye, which damages the optic nerve. Damage to the optic nerve can result in blindness. In fact, the leading cause of blindness in people aged 60 and over is glaucoma. Some people are at higher risk of developing glaucoma, including people who are over 40, people with thin corneas, and people with poor blood circulation.
However, glaucoma can also affect children, particularly within their first year of life. In the United States, one in every 8,000 children have childhood glaucoma. Here's what every parent should know about childhood glaucoma.
What Are the Warning Signs of Glaucoma in a Child?
Of course, a cloudy appearance to the eyes is a huge red flag that someone has glaucoma. However, easily seen cloudiness usually occurs after the condition has had time to progress. Before cloudiness occurs, the pressure in the eyes may make a child's eyes unusually large. The pressure can also cause intense tearing, making your child appear sad and weepy. It's important to note that these warning signs only affect children ages two and under.
Older children have different warning signs, such as they may complain of being unable to adjust their eyes when it's dark or complain of being sensitive to sunlight. Sometimes children complain of having eye pain, headaches, or both when they have glaucoma. Redness in the eyes can also be a warning sign of childhood glaucoma. A significant vision change is another warning sign of pressure in the eyes.
What Are the Treatment Options if Your Child Has Glaucoma?
Treatment for childhood glaucoma can be surgical, medical, or both. The excess fluid in the eyes that is putting pressure on the optic nerve needs to be released in some way. Medical treatment for childhood glaucoma involves medication eye drops as well as liquid or pill medication. Surgical treatment can involve opening a tiny canal group where fluid exits the eye called the trabecular meshwork. This surgery is called a goniotomy. There are other surgical options available, including drainage tubes and trabeculectomy. Typically, surgery is the preferred method of treatment for very young children because they are most susceptible to blindness.
After treatment, it's crucial for parents to continue taking their children to regularly scheduled eye examinations with eye doctors like De Venuto Joseph J. Children who have their glaucoma caught and treated early on have a greater likelihood of having normal vision later in life.