Retinoblastoma is a rare form of eye cancer which generally affects children under 5 years old. According to the American Cancer Society , Retinoblastoma is the most common type of eye cancer in children. It is treatable, but if signs are noticed they must be checked out quickly.
As babies grow in the womb, the eyes form very early on in the process. The eyes have cells called retinoblasts that divide into new cells and fill the retina. Eventually, these cells cease the dividing process and turn into mature retinal cells. Sometimes, something goes wrong with this process and rather than maturing into special cells that detect light, some of the retinoblasts continue to divide and grow out of control, forming a cancer known as retinoblastoma.
The signs of the condition include the following:
A white reflex: A white reflexion can be seen in a photograph where the flash has been used. Often one eye will have “red eye” which is normal but the other eye may look white, yellow or orange. This may be seen in just one or many photographs of the child.
A squint: A squint can be a sign of retinoblastoma, although a squint can also be nothing more than a squint. It is always worth having it checked out quickly just to make sure. Some people call a squint a “lazy eye”; it is where one or both eyes look in or out.
Red, sore or swollen eye without infection: A child’s eye may become very red and inflamed for no reason. This sign is usually linked with other signs.
A change in color to the iris: The iris, the colored part of the eye, can sometimes change colour in one eye, sometimes only in one area.
An absence of ‘red eye’ in flash photographs: In a photograph where one eye has ‘red eye’ (which is normal) the other eye may look black or looks ‘wrong’. This can also be a sign that something is not right.
Deterioration in vision: A child may have deterioration in their vision or they may have had poor vision from birth. You may notice that your child does not focus or fix & follow as well as other children or babies of the same age.
An estimated 250-500 new cases of retinoblastoma occur in the United States yearly so it is rare. Many of the signs mentioned above may also be signs of less severe conditions so if you notice any of the signs above, get the child checked quickly, if only to rule out retinoblastoma and have peace of mind.
Treatments for retinoblastoma are aggressive and include: chemotherapy, radiation, and laser therapy. If your eye doctor is suspicious that you have a retinoblastoma, you will be referred to a specialist to help you with resolving your condition.
If retinoblastoma tumors are left untreated, they will grow and fill much of the eyeball. Cells can break away from the main retinal tumor and travel through the vitreous to other parts of the eye and form more tumors. Tumors can block the pathways that let fluid circulate normally within the eye causing the interior eye pressure to rise. This can cause glaucoma, which can lead to pain and loss of vision in the affected eye. Most retinoblastomas are detected and treated before they have a chance to spread outside the eyeball, but retinoblastoma cells can occasionally spread to other parts of the body spreading the cancer.
Retinoblastomas are very rare with fewer than 20,000 cases in the U.S. per year. Symptoms are few and the condition is often not noticeable by someone other than a trained eye doctor. Regular eye examinations can protect you from the dangers of this rare disease. Located at two convenient Denver locations–King Soopers Shopping Center off of South Monaco Parkway in Denver and at the Brentwood Shopping Center on Federal Boulevard–Optical Masters can offer you top-rate eye care services and help you with your eye health goals.