When most people think about glaucoma, if they know what it is at all, they picture an elderly person struggling with their vision. This isn’t something that affects young people and is usually viewed as “an old person’s disease”.
Even though it is more common with older people, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect many young people. Juvenile glaucoma usually refers to patients under the age of 30, which means that it’s common enough to have a name.
Detecting it is even more difficult since most young people or their parents wouldn’t even think to consider it if their child started complaining about vision problems. In fact, there are almost no symptoms in the beginning—most people adapt to the loss of their peripheral vision by simply tilting their head slightly. They probably don’t even know how they’re doing it.
This is why bi-annual eye exams are so important. An ophthalmologist can detect glaucoma in patients of all ages and start the treatment. And yes, age is a common factor in glaucoma, but other risk factors are the person’s ancestry (Asian people have a slightly higher chance than Caucasians), the family history, among other factors.
Regardless of age, glaucoma treatment is the same. You start with eye drops or pills, anything to reduce the pressure inside the eye that may affect the optic nerve. Exercise is important, as anything that can help reduce your blood pressure may help. Sometimes that’s not enough, and glaucoma surgery is necessary. Laser surgery can be very effective as it may help increase the eye drainage and reduce the pressure.
No matter what course of treatment someone gets, always remember to think about the emotional impact of someone young being diagnosed with “an old person’s disease”. Be supportive, do your best to empathize, and be positive so they can live with this incurable disease.