Retinoblastoma in Children

by May 23, 2023

Retinoblastoma is a rare cancer that develops within the retina of the eye. The tumor progresses from the retina, which is responsible for sensing light and transmitting it to the brain for interpretation.

This is common in children and is one of the most severe eye conditions to impact pediatric patients. Childhood retinoblastoma is one of the main conditions screened for at infant eye exams as the earlier the diagnosis is made, the better the potential outcome for the patient.


Who Gets Retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma mainly develops in children, and symptoms may present themselves as reduced vision, leukocoria (white pupil), or crossed eyes.

Since children may adapt to the limited vision the condition causes, regular eye exams are vital in detecting early signs of retinoblastoma.

Infants as young as six months of age should have a routine vision screening, and any age infant should be evaluated if there are any potential symptoms that could indicate a retinoblastoma is present.

The disease can occur in teenagers and adults, although it is rare, and usually diagnosed by the age of five.


How is Retinoblastoma Detected?

Routine eye exams are crucial in detecting retinoblastoma in children. An optometrist or ophthalmologist may start to examine a child as early as six months old to detect cancer at the earliest stage possible. A dilated eye exam can confirm a retinoblastoma diagnosis in one or both eyes.

Additional scans may be performed to assess if there is any doubt about the precise diagnosis.


What is the treatment for Retinoblastoma?

Following a diagnosis of retinoblastoma, treatment is urgent and aims to preserve life, save the affected eye, and restore vision if possible.

Treatment is case-dependent and may involve radiation or chemotherapy, surgical intervention, or removal of the affected eye.

Severe cases may involve enucleation, where the affected eye is removed to prevent metastasis of the tumor to the brain or rest of the body.


Can Retinoblastoma Cause Blindness?

Although retinoblastoma does not cause immediate blindness of the affected eye, the risk of blindness is very high and can be a probable outcome, particularly with late identification of cancer.

Many children develop legal blindness if there is a retinoblastoma impacting both eyes, however, if only one eye is impacted, the remaining eye can maintain good vision and allow normal functioning.

Early detection and possible intervention measures can help retain functional vision, and it can prevent cancer from metastasizing to other parts of the body.


Is a Pediatrician Screening Enough?

Early detection of retinoblastoma is essential. Children must be examined by an eye care professional, rather than screening at school or a pediatrician’s office, to detect severe diseases such as retinoblastoma.

These informal screenings are beneficial to help identify early eye problems which are causing symptoms but are not nearly enough to sufficiently assess eye health.

Conditions such as retinoblastoma are life-altering or life-threatening and must be evaluated properly to avoid any unwanted negative outcomes.

Early diagnosis and timely intervention can help preserve vision and prevent the spread of the tumor to other parts of the body.


Our eye doctors at Perception Eyecare + Eyewear in Richardson, TX excel in the prescription of contact lenses, glasses and various eye diseases.  Call our optometrists at 972-250-0700 or schedule an appointment online if you would like to learn more about retinoblastoma. Our optometrists provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Richardson, TX and the surrounding vicinities of Garland, University Park, Sachse, and Highland Park.

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