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Childhood Glaucoma: Here’s What You Need to Know

Childhood Glaucoma

Most commonly, glaucoma is associated with adults. However, there are rare cases where a child is born with glaucoma or develops it later in childhood. This type of glaucoma is known as childhood, pediatric, or infantile glaucoma. If left untreated, it can lead to vision loss. If you have a family history of glaucoma or if someone you care about is facing this sight-robbing disease, seek help from your optometrist in Brampton West for eye exam.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye condition that damages the optic nerve due to high pressure inside the eye. While it mostly affects people over 60, there are rare instances where young children and babies develop this condition because of improper development of the eye’s drainage system before birth.


In adults, glaucoma tends to develop gradually and may not display symptoms in the early stages. Regrettably, any damage or vision loss resulting from glaucoma cannot be undone. Nevertheless, there are several treatments accessible that can aid in decelerating the advancement of the condition.

Symptoms of Childhood Glaucoma

Symptoms of childhood glaucoma include:

  • One eye appears larger than the other

  • Light sensitivity

  • Frequent tearing

  • Cloudiness on the surface of the larger eye

  • Diminished vision, especially peripheral vision 


What Is Developmental Glaucoma?

Developmental glaucoma is a broad term encompassing glaucoma that manifests in infants, young children, and adolescents. There are two primary forms of developmental glaucoma:


Congenital glaucoma: This form affects babies and children below the age of three. It is present at birth or develops shortly thereafter.


Juvenile glaucoma (or early-onset glaucoma) impacts children and young adults over three, extending into their teenage years.


The underlying cause of childhood glaucoma can often be attributed to prenatal defects in the eye’s internal drainage system. When the eye’s ability to drain fluid is hindered, fluid accumulates, resulting in increased eye pressure and eventually leading to damage of the optic nerve. Proper diagnosis and management of developmental glaucoma are crucial to preserve vision and prevent further complications.


Developmental glaucoma can also result from other conditions, including:

  • Axenfeld-Reiger syndrome

  • Sturge-Weber syndrome
  • Peters anomaly

  • Aniridia

  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis

  • Marie-Strumpell ankylosing spondylitis


Monitoring and Treatment

Developmental glaucoma can develop shortly after birth and is often detected during the child’s initial eye examination. Children born into families with a history of glaucoma should undergo regular eye exams to monitor the pressure inside their eyes (intraocular pressure).


In a glaucoma diagnosis, the eye doctor will likely prescribe eye drops or oral medications to reduce intraocular pressure. The primary goal of these treatments is to either enhance the drainage of fluid from the eye or decrease the production of fluid within the eye.


However, in some instances, these conservative treatments may prove insufficient, and surgical intervention becomes necessary to effectively manage the pressure and prevent vision loss associated with glaucoma.


Surgery for Childhood Glaucoma

The eye doctor at our Brampton clinic offers specialized glaucoma management to empower children with glaucoma to lead fulfilling lives. While regaining lost vision may not be possible, various treatment options, including surgery, can help optimize a child’s remaining vision.


There are two preferred surgical approaches for developmental glaucoma:


Trabeculectomy: This procedure involves removing a small amount of tissue to create an opening, allowing fluid to drain from the eye and alleviate pressure.


Goniotomy: In this surgery, any obstructing tissue that hinders drainage is removed, creating a new channel for fluid to flow more easily.


During both surgeries, the patient is given “twilight” anesthesia, which means the child remains awake but unresponsive. The surgeon will clean and numb the eye while using a tool to keep the eyelids open. The child may perceive lights but should not experience pain during the procedure. After surgery, the child will wear a clear plastic shield over the surgically treated eye to safeguard it during the healing process.

What to Expect After Glaucoma Surgery?

After the surgical procedure, patients typically experience a reduction in eye pressure. Depending on the individual case, the eye doctor may prescribe steroid or antibiotic eye drops and may consider discontinuing glaucoma medications.


It’s important to note that while surgery aims to lower eye pressure, it does not cure glaucoma. However, if the initial surgery is successful, it can effectively maintain eye pressure within the normal range for a period ranging from 6 months to several years. Sometimes, a follow-up surgery might be necessary to ensure continued condition management.


If your child exhibits symptoms of glaucoma, such as irregular eye size, cloudy patches, or light sensitivity, it is essential to schedule an eye examination to assess for glaucoma. You can contact Westpoint Optical to book an appointment and get the necessary testing and expert evaluation. Early detection and timely management are critical in safeguarding your child’s vision and overall eye health.




Q: How are eye diseases diagnosed?

Eye diseases may present with or without symptoms, depending on their stage. Severe conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration require multiple diagnostic tests, including a comprehensive eye exam and a review of medical history and risk factors. Additional tests depend on the initial evaluation’s results.


Q: Is childhood glaucoma curable?

Congenital glaucoma is not fully reversible but can be controlled to prevent total vision loss. Early treatment allows babies to maintain partial or excellent vision. Glaucoma surgery is often the primary treatment, as eye drops may not permanently reduce intraocular pressure.