Childhood glaucoma – How to spot it

childhood glaucoma

Glaucoma is typically a condition that is associated with ageing. However, according to Glaucoma UK, around five in every 100,000 children are born with childhood glaucoma. In most cases, children are diagnosed with glaucoma before their first birthday.

While receiving the news that your child has glaucoma can be concerning, there are effective treatments that can help save their sight. As Glaucoma Week is a March awareness week, we are shining a light on this condition and the treatment options available.

What is childhood glaucoma?

Childhood glaucoma is a rare condition, also referred to as infantile, paediatric, or congenital glaucoma. It occurs due to high pressure in the eye and is split into two different types:

  • Primary childhood glaucoma – Diagnosed when the condition isn’t linked to any other illness
  • Secondary childhood glaucoma – Diagnosed when the condition is caused by another illness or injury

Caused when the drainage system of the eye develops abnormally, the condition leaves the clear fluid of the eye (aqueous humour) unable to drain correctly. This causes the pressure in the eye to increase, potentially damaging the optic nerve.

If left untreated, childhood glaucoma could lead to permanent blindness.

Symptoms of childhood glaucoma

In many cases, children are born with childhood glaucoma. However, it is typically diagnosed before the age of three. While symptoms will vary depending upon the severity of the condition, the main signs to watch out for are:

  • Cloudy corneas
  • Large eyes
  • Excessive tearing
  • Hiding from bright light or squeezing eyelids

If your child displays any of these symptoms you should seek advice from your doctor or specialist. The earlier childhood glaucoma is detected, the higher the chance of saving their vision.

Childhood glaucoma is diagnosed through various tests and examinations, including Tonometry to measure the eye’s intraocular pressure.

How is it treated?

There have been significant improvements made in recent years in terms of the treatments available for childhood glaucoma. However, treatment options depend on the underlying cause.

Medications tend to be the first line of treatment, such as eye drops. They help by reducing the pressure in the eye temporarily, enabling safer levels to be achieved. Although surgery is often required, with timely treatment and follow-ups to continue monitoring vision and eye changes, many children can continue their lives with good vision.

There are several surgical techniques, including laser surgery, that can be carried out to permanently correct childhood glaucoma. Consultant ophthalmologist Mr Jawaid is a paediatric specialist and he can help you determine which treatment type is suitable for your child.

If you are concerned about childhood glaucoma, get in touch to book a consultation by calling 0115 924 9924.