Congenital glaucoma, also referred to as pediatric glaucoma or childhood glaucoma, occurs in infants who are born with a malformation in the eye drainage canals. The backup of fluids due to the disease causes increased pressure in the eye. This can lead to serious optic nerve damage and can make the eye look bigger and hazy. Congenital glaucoma can also cause tearing and aversion to light. Fortunately, it is possible to successfully treat congenital glaucoma with medication and surgery.
CHILDHOOD GLAUCOMA SYMPTOMS
A cloudy cornea is the earliest and most common sign of childhood glaucoma. While a healthy cornea is transparent, the cornea in a child with congenital glaucoma will appear hazy. This loss of corneal transparency is caused by edema, or swelling of the tissue from excess fluid. Other symptoms of childhood glaucoma include excessive tearing, sensitivity to light, and eyelid spasms.
WHAT CAUSES CONGENITAL GLAUCOMA?
While there is occasionally a genetic link to congenital glaucoma, this illness can occur sporadically in children without a family history of the illness. Glaucoma that cannot be attributed to other causes is called primary glaucoma, while glaucoma that can be traced back to illness, injury, or other eye disorders is called secondary glaucoma.
TESTING FOR CONGENITAL GLAUCOMA
Diagnostic procedures for childhood glaucoma can be difficult, especially with young children. However, a pediatric glaucoma specialist is trained in these modalities and can help children get the testing and care that they need.
Testing for congenital glaucoma may include:
- Tonometry: examines intraocular fluid
- Visual acuity test: measures eyesight and visual abilities at different distances
- Visual field test: measures peripheral vision
- Pupil dilation: special eye drops are used to dilate the pupil for a close-up examination of the retina and optic nerve
Depending on the child’s age, special tools may be used for these tests. In older children, diagnostic testing for pediatric glaucoma is usually done using standard testing tools.
CONGENITAL GLAUCOMA TREATMENT
Surgical treatment is generally required for congenital glaucoma. The two types of surgical procedures used are called goniotomy and trabeculotomy. While the exact mechanisms differ, both of these surgical interventions in include tiny incisions that allow fluid to drain more easily out of the eye. A trabeculotomy is generally performed instead of a goniotomy if the cornea is exceptionally cloudy. If these treatments are not successful, a laser surgery may be performed.
Other treatments include medications that lower eye pressure and corneal haziness, usually in the lead up to surgical procedures.
Fortunately, treatment for congenital glaucoma is often able to successfully treat the illness long term.
If your child is presenting with any of the symptoms of congenital glaucoma, please contact us today to schedule an appointment with a Wills Eye Hospital pediatric glaucoma specialist.