Children's Hospital Colorado

Glaucoma in Children

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is damage to the optic nerve in the eye, which causes blind spots or vision loss. The optic nerve sends images from the eye to the brain through electrical impulses. When those nerves are damaged, the images don't reach the brain.

What causes glaucoma?

Damage to the optic nerve is caused by extra pressure in the eye. The pressure is caused by fluid (called fluid aqueous humor) that builds up and cannot drain through the drainage angle.

Who gets glaucoma?

  • Although glaucoma is most common in the elderly population, babies can be born with congenital glaucoma or it can develop during early childhood.
  • About 1 in 10,000 babies are born with glaucoma.
  • Most babies born with glaucoma are male.
  • 75% of pediatric glaucoma cases affect both eyes, called bilateral glaucoma.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

Glaucoma symptoms can occur in one or both eyes. Symptoms of glaucoma include:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Bigger than normal eyes
  • Eye cloudiness
  • Eye blinking
  • Excessive tearing
  • Red and irritated eyes

If your child's eye pressure increases quickly, he or she may experience discomfort and you may notice a loss of appetite, fussiness and/or irritability.

How do providers at Children's Hospital Colorado diagnose glaucoma?

Almost all babies with pediatric glaucoma are diagnosed by the time he or she is 1 year old. At Children's Colorado, we diagnose glaucoma after an eye exam that includes:

  • Measuring eye pressure
  • Dilating the pupil to look at the optic nerve
  • Assessing vision
  • Testing the reaction of pupils to light
  • Looking for unsteady eye movement

Once the exam is complete, we develop a treatment plan unique to your child.

How is glaucoma treated?

The goal of glaucoma treatment is to preserve and optimize the vision and sight in the affected eyes. Your ophthalmologist will provide you with the best treatment option for your child, which may include one of the following:

Medical treatment

Glaucoma can be treated with eye drops. The goal of eye drops is to lower the pressure in the eye either by reducing the amount of fluid that is produced or by improving fluid drainage.

Glaucoma surgery

The goal of surgery is to create an opening for fluid to drain from the eye. This can be accomplished with conventional surgery in an operating room or with laser surgery.

Glaucoma surgery in the operating room

Ophthalmologists use microsurgical instruments to create a new opening for the fluid to drain from the eye.

Laser surgery for glaucoma

There are three types of laser surgery:

  • Trabeculotomy: A laser treats the drainage angle to let fluid drain easier.
  • Iridotomy: A small hole is created in the iris (the colored part of the eye) to help fluid get to the drainage angle easier.
  • Cyclophotocoagulation: A laser freezes parts of the eye that makes fluid; this reduces the amount of fluid that is produced.

Why choose Children's Colorado for your child's glaucoma?

Kid-sized equipment

Children's Colorado has 100% pediatric-trained specialists and equipment designed just for kids. From the clinic to the patient rooms, our hospital was built and designed to be the most healing environment for children and their families.

A team of eye experts

At Children's Colorado's Department of Ophthalmology, you have access to an entire team of eye experts. Our ophthalmologists are specially trained to diagnose and treat a wide range of eye disorders in kids.

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