Glaucoma And Your Child

When you hear glaucoma, you probably do not imagine fresh faced newborns or bright-eyed toddlers. Glaucoma is not just a disease that affects adults. It also affects infants and children, some from the moment of birth. The symptoms of glaucoma in children can be different from those of an adult and mimic other conditions, so it is important to recognize them and seek treatment from a qualified optometrist as soon as possible.

Symptoms of glaucoma in children can be present at birth, as they grow, or after trauma to the eye, including blunt force trauma from being hit with objects such as baseballs or other kid's fists. 

Symptoms include:

  • Cloudy eyes
  • Eyes that appear unusually large
  • Excessive tearing or watering of the eyes
  • Eyes that are often red without related allergy symptoms
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Constant Blinking
  • Unexplained headaches or painful eyes
  • Loss of vision

Common causes of Glaucoma in Children

Causes of glaucoma in children can vary, with primary congenital glaucoma (PCG) affecting one out of every ten thousand births. Children may not exhibit symptoms at birth, but begin to be effected after the age of three months.  PCG causes a buildup of pressure within the eye, which continues to grow due to the continuous production of eye fluid that does not drain properly. With time this pressure can cause permanent damage to the optic nerve, and if left untreated, blindness. 

Many children may be asymptomatic until after the age of two, which means seeking immediate treatment is imperative, as the pressure has probably already affected the optic nerve, and damaged a child's ability to see clearly. 

Glaucoma can also occur as the result of trauma to the eye, which is common as children grow and explore the world around them. If your child has suffered an injury to his or her eye, or experienced blunt force trauma to the eye area, speak with your physician and/or optometrist about regular monitoring to ensure that developing glaucoma is caught early. 

Children with specific medical conditions such as neurofibromatosis, Sturge-Weber Syndrome, juvenile diabetes, and eye issues such as cataracts or tumors can also be at a higher risk for glaucoma than the average population. 

Early Treatment is Necessary

Unlike adult glaucoma patients who are often treated with medication, the most proactive treatment for children is surgery to relieve the pressure within the eye and restore proper fluid flow to prevent reoccurrence.  In some cases, the insertion of draining tubes in the eye can help balance the flow and distribution of fluid. 

Medication options include eye drops and oral medications to help reduce the pressure to the optic nerve and relieve pain if present. 

If you have concerns about your child's vision or eye heath you should seek immediate guidance from a pediatric optometrist who can ensure your child's eyes receive an in-depth examination and required follow-up care. For additional questions about glaucoma, contact a practice such as North Central Eye Associates Inc.