What you need to know about pediatric glaucoma


Jalen Chase Powell has glaucoma. He’s 5. Seems
a little young for that. In some kids, very uncommonly, the drain of the eye, the natural
drain of the eye, doesn’t form correctly. It clogs up and doesn’t drain properly causing
the pressure to go up. It’s called pediatric glaucoma and while uncommon it can be devastating.
Pediatric glaucoma is an urgent, if not an emergent condition in a child. Meaning, without
appropriate intervention, rapid intervention, the eye can literally be blind over a matter
of weeks or certainly within a matter of months. And modern treatment obviously can completely
reverse that. Jalen’s parents noticed something was wrong when he was just 2 months old. We
actually looked at his eyes. They had this gray, glazey tone to them. Their local Montgomery
hospital referred them to the UAB Callahan Eye Hospital. Doctor Gerkin performed oral
surgery to open the drains on both eyes, which eased the pressure. But Jalen wasn’t done.
So when glaucoma, if both eyes are affected, which was the case in Jalen, then his right
eye actually did just slightly better than the left eye in the initial period. His brain
started favoring the right eye visually. That started making his left eye get weaker over
time. So I started seeing him to try get left eye back in the race, so to speak. Which led
to a second surgery, in 2013 by doctor Cogen, to strengthen the muscles in the left eye.
Jalen is doing better than average and I expect him to continue being a star player for the
future. On his last exam, he was seeing perfectly normal 20/30 vision in each eye. Both eyes
were even Steven. His eyes were straight. They were working together. So I think, he’s
back on track. For Doctor Gerkin, who is chair of the UAB department of ophthalmology, the
team approach available at a premiere institution like the Callahan Eye Hospital makes all the
difference. We see a lot of complex eye disorders where you’ll be doing, you’ll have two or
three surgeons on one child’s eye while someone’s working on the retinas, somebody working on
the lens, on the cornea, on the drain of the eye, to try to get a severely damaged eye
to function again in the youngest of our patients. This is the place to come, out of wherever.
I back this hospital one thousand percent.

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