Pediatric glaucoma is relatively rare. It occurs in the general population of approximately 1 in 10000 births.
Pediatric glaucoma is often referred to as congenital glaucoma. Usually, this form of glaucoma gets diagnosed within the first year of life. When kids have glaucoma, vision loss usually happens more quickly and is often more severe than it is for adults.
Some types of pediatric glaucoma are hereditary. About 10% of cases are inherited. Most inherited cases are caused by inadequate development of the eye’s drainage systems before birth. This results in high (IOP) Intraocular pressure in the eye(s) that eventually damages the optic nerve. The optic nerve is the nerve that carries messages from the retina to the brain.
Symptoms of childhood glaucoma:
• Enlarged eyes
• Cloudiness of the cornea
• Sensitivity to light.
If left untreated, glaucoma can cause permanent vision loss and even disfigurement.
Currently, pediatric glaucoma is treated by lowering the IOP first with medicines. When that fails to lower IOP enough, surgical intervention is taken. Trabeculectomy and goniotomy are the most common surgical interventions to open drainage canals for fluid from the eyes.
• Trabeculectomy is a surgical procedure where the surgeon identifies the drainage system canal and places a device in the canal wall to open it and to help the fluid inside the eye to drain better.
• Goniotomy is a minimally invasive procedure to remove a section of trabecular mesh tissue (a filter-like tissue that fluid in the eye would normally flow through to exit the anterior chamber). The new opening allows for the drainage of fluid from the eye.
Even after surgery, medications may be required to control IOP.
Many children with pediatric glaucoma develop:
• Myopia (nearsightedness)
• Amblyopia (“lazy eye”)
• Strabismus (misalignment of the eyes)
While glaucoma can’t be cured, it can be managed. Monitoring eye pressure and prompt and aggressive treatment for reducing IOP can help sustain sight as long as possible.