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What are the signs of glaucoma in children?

While glaucoma is often thought of as a disease that affects older adults, it can also occur in children, either at birth or later in life.

Did you know that glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable and irreversible blindness worldwide? While the condition is often associated with older adults, it can also affect children, and early detection is key to preventing vision loss.

Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health, explains more about this condition, the risk factors, signs, and treatment options available.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma develops when the optic nerve, which transmits visual information from the eye to the brain, is damaged. Increased pressure in the eye, known as intraocular pressure, is often the source of this damage. As a result, the patient’s vision gradually deteriorates, eventually leading to blindness if left untreated.

Sadly, there is no cure for glaucoma, but early detection and treatment can help slow down or prevent vision loss. Therefore, regular eye exams are crucial, especially for those at a higher risk of developing the condition.

What Are the Risk Factors of Glaucoma?

Glaucoma risk factors include age, family history, high eye pressure, and certain medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

In children, glaucoma often results from an underlying medical condition or genetic disorder.

Signs of Glaucoma in Children

In infants and young children, glaucoma can be difficult to detect because children may not be able to communicate their symptoms. However, there are some signs that parents and caregivers can look for, including:

Cloudy or enlarged eyes: One of the most common signs of glaucoma in infants is an enlargement of one or both eyes. The affected eye may also appear cloudy or hazy.

Excessive tearing: Children with glaucoma may experience excessive tearing, even when they are not crying. This can be a sign of increased pressure in the eye.

Sensitivity to light: Children with glaucoma may be sensitive to light, which can cause discomfort or pain. They may also squint or close their eyes in bright light.

Redness in the eye: Redness in the eye can be a sign of many eye conditions, including glaucoma. If a child’s eye appears red or bloodshot, it’s essential to have it evaluated by an eye doctor.

Cloudy cornea: The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped tissue at the front of the eye. The cornea may become cloudy or opaque in some cases of childhood glaucoma.

Poor vision: As glaucoma progresses, it can cause vision loss. In young children, this may manifest as a lack of interest in visual stimuli, delayed development of visual skills, or difficulty tracking objects.

How is Glaucoma Diagnosed and Treated?

If you suspect your child may have glaucoma, it’s vital to have them evaluated by an eye doctor as soon as possible.

The doctor will perform a comprehensive eye exam, which may include measuring the pressure in the eye, evaluating the optic nerve, and examining the cornea.

If glaucoma is diagnosed, treatment will depend on the underlying cause and the severity of the damage to the optic nerve.

In some cases, medications may be prescribed to lower the pressure in the eye. In other cases, surgery may be necessary to improve fluid flow in the eye.

Prevention and Management of Glaucoma

While there is no guaranteed way to prevent glaucoma, there are some steps that parents and caregivers can take to help reduce the risk of vision loss. These include:

  • Scheduling regular eye exams for children, especially if they have a family history of eye disease or other risk factors for glaucoma.
  • Being vigilant for signs of eye problems, such as excessive tearing, redness, or cloudiness in the eye.
  • Encouraging children to wear protective eyewear, such as goggles or sunglasses, when participating in sports or other activities that could lead to eye injury.
  • Ensuring that children take any medications as prescribed and attend all scheduled medical appointments.

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