About Childhood Glaucoma

Young male child gazes out a window.

Glaucoma is the abnormal elevation of eye pressure with resultant ocular and optic nerve injury causing loss of vision. Childhood glaucoma develops in 1 out of 10,000 children.

Childhood glaucoma may be of primary genetic origin or occur secondary to other pediatric eye diseases. A wide variety of systemic diseases may cause childhood glaucoma and must be considered in children with glaucoma. Most young children show symptoms which can lead to an eye examination, measurement of eye pressure and diagnosis of glaucoma. An increased risk for childhood glaucoma may be suggested by family history or presence of a systemic disease known to be associated with childhood glaucoma.


Early diagnosis and treatment is essential for children with glaucoma to save their vision. The significance of signs of elevated eye pressure may not be obvious. Parents should look for these symptoms:

  • Cloudy, enlarged corneas

  • One eye larger than the other

  • Light sensitivity

  • Excessive tearing without discharge

When these warning signs of glaucoma are present, a prompt examination for your child by your pediatrician, family physician or pediatric eye doctor is indicated.


Treatment should be initiated promptly after the diagnosis is established. Medical treatment will often decrease the intraocular pressure, but will rarely control it satisfactorily.  Surgery is hence indicated to effect permanent reduction of the intraocular pressure.

Medical treatment consists of agents that decrease the rate of aqueous humor formation. Acetazolamide given by mouth (15mg/kg/day) is the most effective initial therapy.  Dorzolamide, a topical carbonic anhydrase inhibitor, also deserves consideration; one drop is given two to three times per day.  Topical beta blockers also suppress aqueous formation and may be of help:they are given in addition to the topical or systemic carbonic anhydrase inhibitor.

Goniosurgery, filtration surgery, and implant surgery are the three options for the management of congenital glaucoma.  In goniosurgery (goniotomy, trabeculotomy), the abnormal trabeculum is incised to enhance the passage of fluid into the filtering channels. For many patients with congenital glaucoma this can be a very effective operation. Children with more severe defects of the filtration channels often do not respond to goniosurgery, and filtration procedures may be required to bypass the malfunctioning system, creating a new egress passage for the aqueous humor.  The results of this type of surgery may be disappointing due to the failure of the new passage to remain patent.  When the filtration angle defect is seen on gonioscopy to be mild to moderate, with a visible ciliary body band, angle surgeryis effective in 75% of cases. Repeat surgery in an unoperated area may be necessary to achieve an adequate lowering of the eye pressure.  In case of failure of classic filtration surgery, implants (Molteno, Ahmed, others) may be used to drain the aqueous fluid from the eye by way of a silicone tube to an episcleral reservoir.

Treatment of congenital glaucoma is difficult, specialized, and sometimes disappointing.  With persistent careful monitoring, however, the outcome of therapy can be viewed with guarded optimism.  Attention to occlusion therapy and correction of optical defects are important to prevent amblyopia.  Genetic counseling is essential and should rely on the individual family structure and general available statistics.


Excellent support organizations do exist to assist families, including those related to Lowe Syndrome and The Pediatric Glaucoma Foundation Family Associates is an active parent support group for all families of children with glaucoma.


The following resource links are provided without recommendations implied or otherwise. Children's Glaucoma Foundation accepts no liability in respect to the information presented on these sites.

Aniridia Foundation Internationalwww.aniridia.com

This site was set up to provide support and advice to children and their families affected by aniridia.

The American Academy of Ophthalmologywww.aao.org

The site offers a public information section which describes the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and surgery risk factors for adult glaucoma. Low vision resources for children are also discussed.

American Association of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismuswww.aapos.org

This site is designed as a resource for pediatric ophthalmologists, health care professionals and the general public in order to help promote better eye care.

Glaucoma Associates of New Yorkwww.glaucoma.net/gany/gany.html

The Glaucoma Center at the Glaucoma Associates of New York was created for the purpose increasing the public's awareness of this blinding disease. The site presents information on the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and risk factors for glaucoma. The anatomy of the eye section is very helpful.

Glaucoma Foundation of Australiawww.glaucoma.org.au/links.htm

This is a non-profit foundation whose mission is to minimize visual disabilities associated with glaucoma by increasing community awareness and understanding of the disease. The group supports patients and their families by providing information and by funding research. Well illustrated descriptions of the symptoms, forms, and treatments of the disease are on this site.

Glaucoma Research Foundationwww.glaucoma.com

This foundation is a national non- profit organization dedicated to the protection of sight. The web site includes a FAQ on glaucoma section, access to a free newsletter and fact sheets, as well as an interactive section for which you may register free of charge.

International Glaucoma Associationwww.glaucoma-association.com

The association offers patients a forum for ideas on glaucoma. The e group provides opportunities to ask questions, make comments, and answer questions in a supportive atmosphere. The e group is moderated.

Lowe Syndrome Associationwww.lowesyndrome.org

This association is an international organization dedicated to helping children with Lowes Syndrome. Half of these children have glaucoma, as well as the other features of LS.

Keep Kids Healthywww.keepkidshealthy.com

This site offers parenting advice, online forums, and pediatric news. It is meant to supplement information given by the child's pediatrician.

Medscape Pediatrics Journal Scanwww.medscape.com

A comprehensive collection of authoritative medical information is offered at this site. One can register free of charge to get access to detailed information and articles.

National Eye Institutewww.nei.nih.gov

This website provides information for patients and their families so they can better understand the disease. It describes the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of glaucoma - mainly open angle glaucoma. There are several helpful drawings of the eye on this site.

National Glaucoma Researchwww.ahaf.org/glaucoma/about/glabout.htm

This fund was established by the American Health Assistance Foundation to fund research on glaucoma and to educate the public about glaucoma.

National Library of Medicine's Medline Pluswww.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus

This is a reference website that provides free access to the Medline databank.

National Organization of Rare Disorders (NORD): www.rarediseases.org

The site provides keyword searchable information on many rare diseases including aniridia. The organization charges $7.50 for each detailed disease report. Reports are in language easy understandable by patients and families.

Pediatric Glaucoma and Cataract Family Associationwww.pgcfa.org

This is an association of parents and professionals dealing with the daily challenge of pediatric glaucoma. The site intends to provide both information and support. The association has a newsletter.

Prevent Blindness Americawww.prevent-blindness.org

This organization is one of the nation's leading volunteer health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. The site has a useful glaucoma FAQ section.