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What You Should Know About Childhood Glaucoma

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Glaucoma is a type of eye condition where there is extra pressure on the eye. This can lead to vision loss and eventual blindness due to the damage the pressure causes on the optic nerve. While it is more common among older adults, children can also get glaucoma. It is called infantile glaucoma for infants and toddlers, or juvenile glaucoma for children and teens. Here is more information about childhood glaucoma.

Types of Glaucoma

The first thing you should know is that there are different types of glaucoma that can affect children, as well as different classifications of glaucoma. The main difference in the classifications have to do with whether or not the child has another health condition or not. Some health conditions and diseases can lead to a higher risk of glaucoma in children, such as neurofibromatosis, Sturge-Weber syndrome, and Axenfeld-Rieger syndrome. In these cases, it is referred to as secondary glaucoma. With children who are generally healthy, their glaucoma is called primary glaucoma.

How You Know Your Child Has Glaucoma

Since younger children don't always have routine eye exams performed, you will need to look for other signs and symptoms to determine if they have glaucoma. Some of the more common symptoms of glaucoma in a young child include an enlarged eye, cloudy cornea, redness of the eye, light sensitivity, and increased watery eyes. Some young children might develop buphthalmos, which is what causes swelling of the eye, making it look larger than normal.

How Doctors Diagnose Pediatric Glaucoma

Your eye doctor will first ask about their symptoms and do a simple eye exam that looks into their cornea to see if there is clouding or swelling. They may also perform tests to look for other medical conditions that are commonly linked with glaucoma in children. Next, the eye doctor needs to perform a more thorough exam, which is done under anesthesia. They will measure the eye pressure and corneal diameter, and take a look at the optic nerve.

Treatment Options

Childhood glaucoma needs the advice of a glaucoma specialist (such as one from Coastal Eye Care), which may or may not be your eye doctor. With children, the treatment might be slightly different than with adults. Adults typically start using medicated eye drops as their first course of treatment. Some older children will also use eye drops, but for infants and young children, this can be difficult. In this case, surgery might be recommended shortly after diagnosis. This is not only to prevent having to use eye drops frequently, but because it has the best chance at saving their eyesight.