Testing & Diagnosis for Glaucoma in Children

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How is childhood glaucoma diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and eye examination of your child, diagnostic procedures for childhood glaucoma may include:

  • visual acuity test: a common eye chart test (with letters and images) that measures vision ability at various distances
  • pupil dilation: widening the pupil with eye drops to allow a close-up examination of the eye's retina
  • visual field: a test to measure a child's side (peripheral) vision
  • tonometry: a standard test to determine the fluid pressure inside the eye

Younger children may be examined with hand-held instruments, while older children can often be examined with standard equipment used for adults. At times, children — particularly young children — may have to be examined under anesthesia to examine the eye and the fluid drainage system, and to determine the appropriate treatment.

An eye examination can be difficult for a child, so it’s important that parents encourage cooperation.

What are the symptoms of childhood glaucoma?

Although common in adults, glaucoma is rare in children — and when it does occur, the symptoms might not be as obvious. Glaucoma can affect one or both eyes, and more than 60 percent of children are diagnosed before they are 6 months old.

Since symptoms of glaucoma may resemble other eye problems or medical conditions, you should always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis. Early detection and diagnosis are critical in preventing vision loss.

Although each child may experience symptoms differently, the most common symptoms of childhood glaucoma are:

  • excessive tearing
  • light sensitivity (photophobia)
  • closure of one or both eyes in the light
  • cloudy, enlarged cornea
  • one eye appearing larger than the other
  • vision loss

If your child’s eye pressure increases rapidly, there may be pain and discomfort. You may also notice that your child becomes irritable, fussy and has a poor appetite.

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- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

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