Does Your Child Have Glaucoma?

Childhood glaucoma occurs in one out of every 10,000 births in the United States. In most cases, childhood glaucoma is diagnosed by the age of six months, with 80% diagnosed by the first year of life.

Up to 50% of hyphema (blunt trauma to the eyeball) patients are at risk of developing glaucoma. These traumas to the eye can include a variety of injuries — from walking into a twig to getting hit in the eye by a baseball.

There are some things that you can do to be on the lookout for glaucoma in children. Review the checklist below and if you recognize any of these signs or symptoms in your own child, check with a pediatric ophthalmologist.

Signs and Symptoms of Childhood Glaucoma

What to watch for in children under the age of two:

  • Does your child have unusually large eyes?
  • Is there excessive tearing in your child's eyes?
  • Are your child's eyes cloudy?

Other signs for all children under 18:

  • Are your child's eyes particularly sensitive to sunlight or a camera flash?
  • Have you noticed significant vision loss in your child?
  • Do your child's eyes have difficulty adjusting in the dark?
  • Does your child complain of headaches and/or eye pain?
  • Does your child blink or/and squeeze his/her eyes often?
  • Does your child have red eyes all the time?

Other conditions to be monitored:

  • Any child with eye injury or a history of a serious eye injury.
  • Any child who has had cataract surgery. (Up to 25 % of patients can develop glaucoma after the surgery.

It’s important to note that for children over the age of two, there are no apparent signs or symptoms until the late stages of glaucoma. Also, parents should understand that glaucoma in young children has specific signs that do not appear in older children with the disease.

As always, one of the best lines of defense against glaucoma is a regular and complete eye exam. Remember, every individual's condition varies and doctors and parents need to work together to accommodate each child's needs.

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Thank you to Scott E. Olitsky, MD for contributing to this article. Dr. Olitsky is an associate Professor of Ophthalmology at the State University of New York at Buffalo and a pediatric ophthalmologist at the Children's Hospital of Buffalo.

Last reviewed on March 07, 2011

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