Pediatric Glaucoma: What Parents Need To Know

If a doctor tells you that your child has glaucoma, you may think you understand the disease. However, the signs, symptoms, and treatments for glaucoma in children is different than that in adults. So, while parents may be familiar with glaucoma in an elderly loved ones, they need to understand the disease as it affects children and the options available for treatment. 

Symptoms Of Pediatric Glaucoma

Glaucoma in children may occur due to heredity or a lack of development in the eye's drainage system before birth. While clouding of the cornea is a sign of both pediatric and adult onset glaucoma, children often have other symptoms as well. 

  • Excessive tearing
  • Matting around the eyes
  • Unusually large eyes
  • Sensitivity to light

The tearing is not caused by glaucoma, but is due to blocked tear ducts. 

When Is Pediatric Glaucoma Diagnosed?

Usually, the condition is diagnosed within the first year of life, but it can also occur in young children, so it can be diagnosed later. When the condition occurs later in life, it may be referred to as juvenile glaucoma, which also has symptoms that differ from adult onset glaucoma. People with juvenile glaucoma often have a family history of the disease. During an exam with an eye doctor, he or she may notice the child's eye pressure is elevated and cupping of the optic nerve, which are signs of glaucoma in children. 

What Treatments Are Available?

The treatment for pediatric glaucoma is to reduce the intraocular pressure using medications or surgery. Medications my include eye drops or oral medication. Depending on the type of medication, it may work by reducing the amount of fluid inside the eye or helping the fluid to drain more quickly. 

Many times, the condition is treated using surgery. Your doctor or North Central Eye Associates Inc may recommend laser or filtering surgery.

  • Laser surgery uses a powerful beam of light to create a tiny opening in the eye tissue. 
  • Filtering surgery is done to create a drainage canal in the eye.  

What Parents Should Expect

While a diagnosis of glaucoma in a child can be devastating, the majority of children with the condition can live full lives. Doctors cannot restore the vision of children who have glaucoma, so the goal is to optimize the child's vision. Parents can help by encouraging their child to participate in daily self-care and encourage the child to be as independent as possible. 

It is important to know the symptoms of glaucoma in children, especially if it runs in the family. The sooner it is diagnosed and treated, the more likely at least some of the child's vision can be save. However, he or she may need to wear glasses. If you think you child may have glaucoma symptoms, schedule an exam with optometrist as soon as possible.