Why is early detection of glaucoma so important?
This is the type glaucoma that affects babies and children of a young age. It's an uncommon illness that can be hereditary, and it's due to the incomplete or poor development of the aqueous humour drainage system before birth. As it is impossible for the aqueous humour to exit, the pressure increases inside the eye, causing the symptoms and damaging the optic nerve.
It is usually diagnosed at birth or during the baby's first year. If the glaucoma starts before the age of 3, it is called paediatric congenital (present at birth) glaucoma. If it appears in a child over the age of 3, it is called infantile glaucoma.
The symptoms of infantile glaucoma are usually detected by the child's parents. Their child's eyes look swollen and enlarged or one eye looks larger than the other, the eye looks opaque or cloudy, the child cannot tolerate light (photophobia), has watering eyes (epiphora) and a tendency to close their eyes.
There are various causes of childhood glaucoma. It may be hereditary (primary congenital glaucoma) or it may present itself along witht other eye or systemic disorders (secondary congenital glaucoma).
In many cases, surgery may correct the failure of the aqueous humour to exit the inside of the eye. On occasions, it is necessary to resort to medication to reduce the pressure of the eye until surgery is performed or subsequent to it to reach the desired pressure levels.
Medical treatments can be topical (eyedrops) and oral medication. Procedures can use microsurgery or a laser. It is important to start as early as possible.
In primary congenital glaucoma, there is a genetic alteration inherited from the parents, meaning that prevention is not possible. All we can do is resort to a genetic study, plan pregnancy, used assisted reproduction techniques and selecting embryos that do not have these congenital changes.
Secondary congenital glaucoma may also have a genetic origin, associated, in this case, with other diseases. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment may help to prevent or control its development.
Frequently asked questions
The risk of congenital glaucoma is greater in the sons of men or relatives affected by congenital glaucoma, which is why a genetic study of the parents is recommended. In the case of family members affected by chronic simple glaucoma (the most common), the risk of congenital glaucoma is higher.
Eyes that are larger than normal could be caused by a range of factors or they might even be within normal parameters and not necessarily associated with glaucoma.