This blog has been contributed Dr. Mohamed Sayed, consultant ophthalmic surgeon in Cataract and Glaucoma in Children & Adults
What you need to know about childhood glaucoma
When we hear the word “glaucoma”, the stereotype that comes to one’s mind is that of a middle-aged or older person, who has lost a considerable proportion of her or his sight, is using several types of eye drops on a regular basis, and who may have had one or more surgeries to lower their eye pressure. While it is true that glaucoma is generally a disease of old age, two points need to be elaborated upon. First, this stereotype may have been true a decade or two ago. Still, the recent advances in medical, laser, and surgical therapy have helped millions of glaucoma patients worldwide preserve their vision and enjoy a normal lifestyle with minimal or no disruption. Second, all age groups may suffer from glaucoma, including newborns and young children.
How do children get glaucoma?
The most common form of glaucoma in children, primary congenital glaucoma, is genetically determined. However, the disease is genetically distinct from glaucoma, which affects adults. Typically, the drainage system of the eye, which is responsible for draining the eye fluid and regulating eye pressure, is malformed or malfunctioning.
Childhood glaucoma may also result secondary to other eye diseases, following surgery for paediatric cataracts, after eye trauma, or associated with certain metabolic and systemic disorders.
Is it important that my newborn be tested for glaucoma?
When a baby is born, the neonatologist typically checks the eye for the size and clarity of the cornea. Typically, babies born with glaucoma have bigger than normal eyes, as the eye stretches due to the high pressure inside, asymmetric eye size, with one eye typically larger. The clear window of the eye, the cornea, would be lusterless and have a whitish or bluish hue that would make distinguishing their iris colour difficult.
Additionally, the mother may notice that the newborn is tearing excessively or is light sensitive. While these symptoms may result from other disorders in the eye, their presence warrants prompt and timely examination by a paediatric glaucoma specialist or a paediatric ophthalmologist.
Is paediatric glaucoma a serious condition?
Absolutely! If left untreated or discovered late, the visual prognosis can be very poor. Luckily, with timely diagnosis and prompt medical and/or surgical treatment, children with glaucoma typically retain functional vision.
My child has been diagnosed with (or is suspected of having) glaucoma. What should I do next?
You should visit a Consultant Ophthalmologist specialized in managing glaucoma in children. At Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai, we have the expertise and the technology to diagnose and treat the full range of paediatric glaucoma.