Anyone who thinks the sight-robbing eye disorder glaucoma is only a worry for older adults should talk to Olivia Goree.
Concerned that something was wrong with the eyes of her now 18-month-old son Christian Earl, Goree took the toddler to a pediatrician who told her nothing was amiss.
Not convinced, Goree took Christian to the Loyola University Medical Center, outside Chicago. Loyola pediatric ophthalmologist Cathleen Cronin told Goree her concerns were well founded because Christian was suffering from glaucoma.
“I thought that only older people could get glaucoma,” Goree said. Glaucoma, which causes blindness in roughly 5,000 Americans each year, is caused by an increase in fluid within the eyeball. The resulting abnormally high pressure progressively damages the optic nerve, which transmits visual signals from the eye’s retina to the brain.
In order to relieve the pressure within Christian’s eyes, Robert Barnes, a Loyola ophthalmologist who specializes in glaucoma management, surgically implanted tiny tubes in the youngster’s eyes. The tubes, which have valves, drained the excess fluid from the eyes.
Medicated eye drops and other medications are able to control glaucoma, but that is not the case in all sufferers — surgical intervention is sometimes required.
After Barnes implanted the draining tubes, a colleague operated to remove cataracts and scar tissue that were also impairing Christian’s vision.
Although Christian did lose some peripheral vision to glaucoma and has to wear glasses, his condition appears to have stabilized, the doctors say.
“Before the surgeries he was bumping into everything” but that is no longer the case, Goree said of Christian.
According to Barnes, only about one infant in a million is born with the form of glaucoma that Christian has.
Christian’s pediatrician missed the glaucoma diagnosis, because as an infant, Christian’s eyes had a hazy blue-gray coloring. Barnes and Cronin said it was a good thing the child’s mother trusted her instincts, and urged parents with similar concerns to have their child examined by an eye specialist.