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Eye Health Center

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Primary Congenital Glaucoma

What Causes Primary Congenital Glaucoma?

The cause of primary congenital glaucoma is not clearly understood. Some cases are inherited. But others are not. The problem of improper drainage of fluid is the result of the lack of full or proper development before birth of the network of cells and tissue that make up the drain.

Who Is Likely to Have Primary Congenital Glaucoma?

It's hard to predict which babies will be born with primary congenital glaucoma. One risk factor is a family history of congenital glaucoma. If the first and second child have the disease, the risk increases significantly for later children.

About twice as many boys as girls are born with primary congenital glaucoma. It sometimes can affect just one eye. But in three out of every four cases both eyes are affected.

What Are the Symptoms of Primary Congenital Glaucoma?

There are three main symptoms that a parent is likely to notice:

  • Involuntary protective closing of the eyelids
  • Painful oversensitivity to light
  • Excessive tearing

Depending how far the disease has progressed, other symptoms can include:

  • Cloudiness of the cornea, the normally clear front layer of the eye
  • Enlargement of one or both eyes
  • Red eye

How Is Primary Congenital Glaucoma Diagnosed?

A thorough eye exam is needed to accurately diagnose PCG and determine the proper treatment.

It can be difficult to examine the eyes of a baby or a small child in the same way a doctor examines the eyes of older children or adults. So the exam is almost always done in an operating room under general anesthesia.

During the exam, the doctor will:

  • Measure the pressure inside the eye
  • Thoroughly examine all parts of the eye

A formal diagnosis of primary congenital glaucoma will be made only after ruling out other possible conditions that could be responsible for the glaucoma or that could cause symptoms similar to glaucoma.

How Is Primary Congenital Glaucoma Treated?

The first choice for treating primary congenital glaucoma is almost always surgery. And because of the risk for young children associated with anesthesia, the surgery is often performed at the same time the diagnosis is confirmed. If the primary congenital glaucoma affects both eyes, the doctor will normally operate on both at the same time.

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