Glaucoma is considered by many to be a disease of the elderly. Children, however can and do get glaucoma. Childhood glaucoma often goes undiagnosed in kids because parents and pediatricians simply don’t recognize the signs. Does your child have glaucoma? Here are some signs parents should look for in their child.
Prevalence of Childhood Glaucoma
Childhood glaucoma, also called pediatric, congenital or infantile glaucoma can be present at birth, develop over time or result from an injury to the eye. This rare condition occurs in one out of every 10,000 U.S births. If present at birth, it is thought glaucoma is caused by improper development of the drainage system of the eye in utero. In the majority of cases, glaucoma is diagnosed in children by the age of six months. However, it may take up to a full year for a diagnosis to occur. By the end of the first year, 80 percent of childhood glaucoma cases have been diagnosed.
Signs & Symptoms of Childhood Glaucoma in Children under Two
Most cases of childhood glaucoma develop before the age of two. However, an injury to the eye or other eye conditions can cause older children to develop glaucoma. In children under two, parents should pay close attention to the following signs of the condition: unusually large eyes, excessive tearing, cloudy appearance to the cornea of the eyes and an abnormally high sensitivity to light.
Signs & Symptoms of Childhood Glaucoma in Older Children
In children older than two, the appearance of glaucoma symptoms means that the disease is at an advanced stage. Symptoms are different in older children than in those under two. Parents should be on the lookout for the following signs of childhood glaucoma in older children: Sensitivity to light (even mild forms of light like a camera flash), frequent blinking or squinting, vision loss, eye pain, difficulty adjusting to dim light or darkness, headaches and red eyes.
Risk Factors for Developing Childhood Glaucoma
Of course, children who have inherited glaucoma have no detectable risk factors. There are some conditions however that put a child at a greater risk for developing glaucoma. Blunt trauma or any injury to the eyeball can cause childhood glaucoma to develop. It is estimated that 50 percent of children with serious eye injuries will eventually develop glaucoma. Children who have undergone cataract surgery are also at a greater risk for the disease, with 25 percent of patients eventually developing glaucoma as a complication.
Early Intervention Key to Successful Management
Early detection and intervention is the key to helping children with glaucoma lead full lives. If you notice any of the symptoms of childhood glaucoma in your child, seek treatment from a qualified eye professional. Yearly eye exams are important tools for early detection of childhood glaucoma. If parents suspect their child is displaying signs of the disease, they should have their child examined by a pediatric ophthalmologist. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause irreversible damage to the optic nerve and blindness. Once vision is lost, it can’t be restored. The goal of medical treatment for childhood glaucoma is to slow the progression of the disease and save a child’s remaining vision.
Glaucoma Research Foundation