Glaucoma is usually associated with older age, but children can develop glaucoma as well. In fact, even newborns can develop the disease. Because pediatric glaucoma is rare, there is a need for new and better treatment options.
Glaucoma in children is challenging to treat for many reasons. Glaucoma tends to turn a child’s optic nerve cloudy or gray in color. This cloudiness makes it difficult for an eye doctor to see a change in the optic nerve, which is one of the first signs of the disease. Children also do not respond well to traditional glaucoma treatments. Medicated eye drops are often the first course of treatment for adult glaucoma, but drops do not work well to treat pediatric glaucoma.
Surgery is often a better treatment option for children. The gold standard for pediatric glaucoma treatment has been angle surgery, which creates a small opening in the drainage system of the eye to lower eye pressure and relieve stress from the optic nerve. Sometimes, angle surgery is not an option for a child or angle surgery was not sufficient to bring eye pressure down to a safe level. Micro-invasive surgical techniques have been successful in treating adult glaucoma, and researchers and surgeons are hoping to modify micro-invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) for children.
MIGS uses tiny devices to perform glaucoma surgery through a small incision. A new procedure called ab interno trabeculectomy could be quite effective for children. Instead of cutting the conjunctiva, the membrane that covers the front of the eye, this procedure makes a small incision in the cornea. Leaving the conjunctiva intact may be beneficial if future surgical procedures are necessary. New devices are also being created that make it easier to view the optic nerve through a clouded cornea and reduce the risk of complications in surgery.
This is exciting news in the field of glaucoma. There is currently no cure for glaucoma, but innovative advances such as MIGS could transform pediatric glaucoma treatment for children who face lifelong vision challenges (Source: Glaucoma Research Foundation).