Glaucoma is a group of diseases characterized by damage to the optic nerves that often occurs when the pressure is too high. The optic nerve damage can result in severe vision loss. The increased pressure in the eye (also called intraocular pressure) is usually from inability of the eye to drain natural fluids. Though Glaucoma can develop at any age, its symptoms can be different in children and adults.
Glaucoma in Children
When glaucoma develops at birth, it is called congenital glaucoma and when it develops between 1-24 months it is called infantile glaucoma. The most common symptoms of congenital/infantile glaucoma include excessive tearing, light sensitivity and a large cloudy cornea (the normally clear front surface of the eye) which can cause the iris to appear dull. In some cases, the eye can appear to take on a gray color instead. Primary congenital/infantile glaucoma occurs at rate of approximately 1 in 10,000.
When glaucoma occurs after age 3 it is classified as pediatric. Glaucoma development can also be associated with systemic conditions.
Treatment for glaucoma can include medication and surgery. Surgery can be effective for congenital glaucoma. Many children with glaucoma develop nearsightedness and require glasses. Also, strabismus and amblyopia can also occur simultaneously with glaucoma which may require patching or surgery. Careful long-term monitoring of glaucoma is necessary for pediatric patients to minimize the effects of the condition.
Glaucoma in Adults
Glaucoma is much more common in adults than in children and its incidence increases with age. Glaucoma consist of two primary forms open angle and closed angle. It the leading cause of blindness in people over 60 years old. Open angle glaucoma develops when the eye becomes less effective at draining the fluid out causing the intraocular pressure to rise. Closed angle glaucoma occurs when the iris (the colored part of the eye) blocks the drainage angle in the eye. There are other additional forms of glaucoma including normal tension glaucoma and secondary glaucoma.
Glaucoma is diagnosed through measurement of intraocular pressure and examination of the optic nerve for glaucoma damage. Additional tests include computerized measurement of the peripheral field where glaucoma usually affects vision first. Dr. Sherman and his staff use a cutting-edge visual field machine which minimizes the time and discomfort experienced by patients in administering this important test. Other testing typically performed is computerized measurement of the retina thickness.
Glaucoma treatment in adults usually begins with medicated eye drops. For those patients whose condition does not respond to eye drops, laser and surgery may be indicated. Fortunately, with treatment glaucoma can be controlled in most patients preventing progressive loss of vision. However, long-term monitoring of glaucoma is frequently indicated to ensure continued control of the patient’s condition.