Glaucoma and Our Family

On July 31st of this year, at the ripe, old age of three months, my son was diagnosed with glaucoma.

For several weeks I had noticed that something seemed “off” with his right eye. I couldn’t quite place my finger on it. Then one day it hit me: it was bigger than the left! “No biggie,” I thought. It was hardly noticeable, and his vision seemed just fine. But then I started to notice this blue haze over his eye. Where his pupil should have been black, it was almost a deep, navy blue instead.

He had his 3-month well-baby check-up coming up, so I just brought it up to his pediatrician. She hadn’t noticed it (as it was that subtle), but was able to see what I was talking about, once I pointed it out. She wasn’t sure what it might be, so she referred me to the Casey Eye Institute at OHSU in Portland.

At Casey Eye, on July 31st, I was given the news: Owen has glaucoma. And I was in total shock! Isn’t glaucoma something that old people get? How did my infant end up with it?

Well, it turns out that childhood glaucoma occurs in 1 in every 10,000 births in the U.S. In most cases (and in Owen’s case), it occurs as a result of a blockage in the eye, preventing fluid from draining properly. Your eyes are constantly creating new fluid and draining out the old fluid, to keep your eyes hydrated, clean, and healthy. When there is a blockage, the old fluid cannot be drained, and the new fluid keeps building up. This can cause the eye to enlarge. If left untreated, the extra fluid will put pressure on, and can damage, the optic nerve. This can lead to blindness.

We have been very fortunate during this time. Because I noticed Owen’s eye so early, they were able to get him into surgery right away (a mere four days after diagnosis) to correct the problem. The doctors actually had to enter through the side of his eye and use a thread to clear the blockage in his eye. He will have to undergo regular exams while under anesthesia, and will need glasses. But he won’t lose his vision, and for that, I’m so grateful.

And because they know that there is an issue with the right eye, the doctors know to keep tabs on the left eye, just in case.

For those who may be facing something similar with their child, I highly recommend visiting the Glaucoma Foundation website. They have really helpful information.

As this will be a very long journey for our family, I’ll be updating the blog regularly on Owen’s progress.

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