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Louisville-area mom shares son’s battle with glaucoma to offer advice to other families

By Jennifer Baileys

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    LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (WLKY) — January is Glaucoma Awareness Month.

It is an eye disease usually associated with older people. One Louisville-area mom said her son was diagnosed with glaucoma at just a few months old.

Now, she is sharing her story in hopes of helping other people save their sight.

“When he was about 5 or 6 months old we were at the beach on vacation, and we noticed that whenever we were out on the beach he just kept his eyes closed,” said Melissa Wright, Hunter’s mother.

Concerned something could be wrong with her baby, Wright took her son Hunter to the pediatrician who referred her to a specialist.

“He was talking about glaucoma and I heard him say Hunter could be blind one day. I don’t really know much more after that, I kind of blacked out and I was really upset,” Wright said.

Hunter was diagnosed with congenital glaucoma.

Wright said it was a shocking diagnosis because she and Hunter’s father did not know anyone in their family who had the eye disease.

“To me, glaucoma was something old people get, you know, you don’t get that until you’re old. I didn’t know you could be born with it, so just learning about congenital glaucoma was something that I had to do,” Wright said.

“Glaucoma is basically a plumbing problem. There’s always fluid being secreted to the inside of the eye to bring nutrients to the inside and keep the eye under pressure so that the eyeball doesn’t collapse, but that fluid has to be drained out of the eye, and with glaucoma those fine pores that let the fluid drain out, they block up. And in congenital glaucoma, those fine pores are not developed correctly to begin with,” said Dr. Joern Soltau, an ophthalmologist with UofL Health.

Between the ages of 5 months and 4 years old, Hunter had three surgeries and five exams under anesthesia. Hunter is a teenager now and Wright said thanks to the procedures and early intervention, her son’s glaucoma is stable.

“We just go to the doctor now, he hasn’t had any more surgeries, his vision is stable, everything has been stable and he actually just turned 15 years old,” Wright said.

Hunter’s story has a happy ending, but experts say glaucoma is often missed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide.

“There are no symptoms early on, so as the pressure is too high it damages the optic nerve and damages your peripheral vision, and you’re not really aware that you have any visual problems until it’s too late,” Soltau said.

As for Hunter, his mother said his glaucoma is stable and he has to see the glaucoma specialist once a year.

“I’m just so grateful that we caught it as early as we did because I think he may not be able to see today if we didn’t,” Wright said.

Experts say the best way to make sure your eyes are healthy and to catch glaucoma early is to have regular eye exams.

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