Although it most commonly affects the elderly, primary infantile glaucoma occurs in about 1 in 25,000 babies born in the United States. Glaucoma may also develop in babies and children who have other types of eye disease. In both adults and children with glaucoma, the prevention of permanent blindness requires detection and proper treatment. Glaucoma may go undetected during childhood because the signs of the disease may not be obvious and the disorder can masquerade as other conditions.
Early signs of glaucoma in infants and children
- Enlargement of one or both eyes (this may be subtle and can be mistaken for normal)
- Excessive tearing
- Cloudy corneas
- Sensitivity to light in one or both eyes
- Myopia (nearsightedness) in one or both eyes
Pediatric glaucoma is treated differently than adult glaucoma. Most patients require surgery, and two operations for childhood glaucoma are trabeculotomy and goniotomy, which are almost never used in the treatment of adult glaucoma.
Because most eye doctors do not have experience treating infants or young children with glaucoma, patients usually are referred to specialists for treatment.
Approximately 80-90% of babies who receive prompt surgical treatment will do well, and may have normal or nearly normal vision for their lifetime. Most babies who have glaucoma and do not obtain appropriate care quickly will lose their vision.
Early detection and treatment can mean the difference between sight and blindness.