- Posted on- Feb 26, 2016
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Glaucoma is a disease in which the optic nerve, the nerve that connects the eye to the brain, is damaged. Generally, this damage is caused by high pressure in the eye. The eye makes and drains fluid when the drainage system becomes impaired pressure from the excess fluid builds up in the eye and results in glaucoma. It is a progressive condition that, without treatment, will lead to loss of peripheral (side) vision and, ultimately, blindness.
When no specific cause is identified, we call it "primary glaucoma." When it is due to another condition, such as eye trauma or systemic disease involving the eye, we call it "secondary glaucoma." Most childhood glaucoma is primary, either congenital (present from birth) or infantile (developing between 1-24 months of age). Most children with glaucoma are diagnosed within the first three years of life. Some cases of primary glaucoma may have a genetic component, but most are sporadic, occurring in families with no history of congenital glaucoma.
Why timely treatment for childhood glaucoma holds significance?
Outlook for paediatric glaucoma without proper treatment is poor. In children under the age of 3 or 4 years, in addition to progressive loss of vision due to damage to the optic nerve, the eye with elevated pressure expands, becoming very large. That doesn't happen in adults. This enlargement can lead to changes in refractive error (poor focusing of the visual image on the retina, or film that lines the back of the eye), changes in the shape and clarity of the cornea (the transparent covering of the front of the eye that assists with focusing of the visual image), and to other secondary causes of poor vision. Disturbance of the visual image sent from the eye to the brain in a young child will result in amblyopia ("lazy eye"), a condition in which the eye fails to develop normal vision. This can be permanent if not aggressively treated. That's why it's so important for parents to be aware of the signs of childhood glaucoma.