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Retinoblastoma and the importance of early detection

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Retinoblastoma is a rare tumor of the eye that affects infants.  About 200-300 children are diagnosed every year.  The tumor affects the retina in the back of the eye and may affect one or both eyes.  Many parents first see signs of retinoblastoma after taking photos of their children and seeing a whitish area in the pupil in bright light.  

Symptoms 

  • A white color in the center of the eye (pupil) when light is shined in the eye, such as when taking a flash photograph
  • Eyes that appear to be looking in different directions
  • Eye redness
  • Eye swelling

In my career, I have seen a case of retinoblastoma in a young child.  This is a very difficult and unfortunate situation. I referred the child immediately to a pediatric ophthalmologist to have him evaluated. He will undergo a CT scan to determine how deep the tumor is and what the treatment should be. If the tumor is caught early enough, laser therapy can save the eye, otherwise the eye will have to be removed to prevent the tumor from spreading to the brain or the other eye. 

This case also underscores the importance of comprehensive eye examinations starting at 6-months of age.  I am part of a public health program called InfantSEE which provides a one-time no cost visual examination for children 6-months to age 1. Young children cannot communicate verbally if there is a visual problem, that is why early detection is paramount.

 Don’t wait. Schedule your infant’s eye examination today. 

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