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Symptoms of Glaucoma in Infancy and Childhood

Pediatrics and Child Health

Glaucoma is a condition of the eye in which the eye’s normal fluid pressure increases due to improper drainage, resulting in pressure on the optic nerve and vision loss. Glaucoma is most readily recognized as a common condition among the elderly, but it can develop at any age, including in childhood. When it occurs in children, glaucoma is typically classified according to the age of onset: specifically, congenital glaucoma (present at birth), infantile glaucoma (infant onset), and childhood or juvenile glaucoma (childhood onset). As symptoms of glaucoma are different in infants and children than they are in adults, it’s important that parents know what to look for. Here are common glaucoma symptoms as they appear in infants and children.

Symptoms of Glaucoma: Congenital and Infantile

Congenital and infantile glaucomas are either present at birth or develop in the first couple of years. In congenital glaucoma, the child usually has enlarged cloudy corneas caused by the fluid pressure that typifies this condition. Symptoms of infantile glaucoma include excessive tearing, a sensitivity to light, and a large cloudy cornea that causes the iris to appear dull.

Symptoms of Glaucoma: Childhood/Juvenile

Compared to adults, symptoms of glaucoma in children aren’t always obvious. However, early detection and diagnosis is important to prevent loss of vision. Symptoms of juvenile glaucoma include: a cloudy enlarged cornea, excessive tearing, sensitivity to light (caused by that less-than-clear cornea), squinting of one or both eyes in the light, poor vision, and jerky eyes. Another symptom is an enlarged eye size, most striking when only one eye is affected and thus appears larger than the other. If the vision is affected, the eye with poorer vision may also begin to turn inward or outward.

Other Symptoms of Glaucoma

If the eye pressure increases rapidly, the child may experience pain and discomfort in that eye. In younger children who are unable to articulate what they’re feeling, parents may notice increased irritability and fussiness, as well as a poor appetite. If an older child articulates any pain or discomfort in the eye, parents should contact a pediatrician or other medical professional immediately for evaluation and diagnosis.

Unfortunately, glaucoma can wreak havoc on a child’s eye and thus requires prompt diagnosis and treatment. If any symptoms of glaucoma are noticed or even suspected in an infant or child, that child needs to be evaluated immediately so that any vision loss can be curtailed as much as possible. When in doubt, seek the opinion of a medical professional.

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