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Congenital Glaucoma: What Is It?

A person has congenital glaucoma at birth by definition, and it is usually diagnosed at that time or within the first year of life. It is caused when the eye’s drainage channels don’t develop properly, and the fluid inside the eye cannot drain. When fluid is constantly produced but unable to be drained, intraocular pressure—high pressure behind the eye—builds up.

Congenital Glaucoma

In about 75% of cases, congenital glaucoma eye disease presents in both eyes. It occurs more frequently in boys (65% of cases) than girls, although it is still rare, affecting less than 0.05% of children in the United States. Early diagnosis and therapy by an ophthalmologist is essential to prevent blindness and give a child the best possible visual future.

Look for three primary glaucoma symptoms in a child or infant with this congenital disease: eyes producing excessive tears (epiphora), light sensitivity or photophobia, and blepharospasm, which is spasms or squeezing of the eyelid. In some children, the eye may appear enlarged or cloudy due to the pressure built up behind it. If you notice any of these symptoms, check with your doctor immediately. An ophthalmologist can examine the eye with special tools to confirm a congenital glaucoma diagnosis.

There are two surgical procedures commonly used to treat congenital glaucoma: trabeculotomy and goniotomy. In both, the ophthalmologist incises the trabecular meshwork so the fluid can drain more effectively from the eye through the normal drainage channel. There is no home treatment for this congenital disease, so be sure to bring up any vision concerns with your pediatrician as soon as you notice them.

The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.