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Congenital Glaucoma

Congenital Glaucoma is a birth defect that affects the eyes.

What It Is

Congenital glaucoma is a condition in which the eyes have a problem with normal fluid regulation. As a result, the fluid pressure inside the eye slowly rises, causing damage to the optic nerve (a bundle of nerve fibers that connects the retinas to the brain) that can eventually lead to blindness.

Glaucoma is classified by age of onset. If it occurs before the age of three, it is considered congenital (present at birth) glaucoma. The condition is more common in males than females and more often than not affects both eyes.

Symptoms

  • Photophobia (intolerance to the visual perception of light)
  • Excessive tearing
  • Blespharospasm (uncontrolled, excessive and sustained blinking and spasms of the eyelids)
  • Cloudy and/or unusually large corneas, caused by corneal edema, occur in some cases, usually before the age of three
  • Corneal cloudiness is present in some newborns
  • Pain and discomfort, increased irritability or fussiness

Causes

Painkillers: A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that pregnant women who take opioid painkillers double the risk of having a baby affected with congenital glaucoma. The implicated opioid drugs are as follows:

  • Oxycodone
  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone

Treatment

Thanks to the highly elastic nature of optic nerve tissue in children, early detection and treatment of congenital glaucoma can result in the reversal of damage to the eye. The degree of repair and the ultimate outcome in the child’s vision is dependent on the severity of the disease, the co-existence of other abnormalities and the response to medical interventions. Many children with milder forms of the disease will have an excellent recovery after surgery, but others may experience an advance in glaucomatous damage, which may ultimately lead to blindness.

Depending on the type, severity and stage of your child’s glaucoma, there are a number of different treatments that may be prescribed. There are medications that either cause the eye to produce less fluid or help increase the fluid drainage from the eye. Several different types of laser surgeries help relieve pressure from the eye by either helping drain or slowing the production of fluid.

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