When you visit Ophthalmology Associates of Western New York, we can provide you with treatment for a number of eye diseases and disorders. One of our WNY eye doctors can take a closer look at your eyes, diagnose any issues, and treat you accordingly.

Retinoblastoma is one of the many issues that we have treated our patients for previously which is a very serious eye condition that is most commonly found in children.

retinoblastoma diagram

What is Retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma is a form of cancer that develops in the retina, located all the way in the back of the eye.

  • While there are some adults that deal with retinoblastoma, it’s a cancer that most often affects young children because it tends to develop in the eyes before birth.
  • There are approximately 200 to 300 babies born with retinoblastoma annually. It is considered to be the most common form of eye cancer in children.

Causes of Retinoblastoma

Shortly after a baby is conceived, their eyes begin to develop in the womb. During the development process, cells located in the eyes – called retinoblasts – divide into new cells and begin to fill out the retina.

  • Under normal circumstances, the eyes will stop producing retinoblasts at a certain point so the retinal cells can mature.
  • However, in some babies, the retinoblasts continue to divide at a rapid pace long after they should have stopped resulting in retinoblastoma.

There are a lot of things that need to go wrong in order for retinoblastoma to occur, but eye doctors believe that a mutation in the retinoblastoma gene shoulders most of the blame for retinoblastoma.

A normal retinoblastoma gene will prevent retinal cells from growing but when the retinoblastoma gene is abnormal, it can lead to problems. Most of the babies who have an abnormal retinoblastoma gene have it due to hereditary reasons, but in certain situations, the retinoblastoma gene can mutate on its own.

Symptoms of Retinoblastoma

retinoblastoma examUnlike many other eye diseases, you can often tell when a child has retinoblastoma simply by looking at the eye. An eye that has been affected by retinoblastoma will look unusual.

  • When you shine a light into the eye of a child with retinoblastoma, the pupil will often look white instead of pink or red as a result of white pupillary reflex.

There are also other symptoms that might show up in a child with retinoblastoma.

  • A lazy eye is one of the most common symptoms.
  • Less common symptoms of retinoblastoma include eye pain, bulging of the eye, vision problems, different colored eyes, and redness or bleeding in the eye.

If you suspect retinoblastoma in your child, you should have a WNY eye doctor at Ophthalmology Associates of Western New York, P.C. examine their eyes for surefire signs of the cancer.

Detection of Retinoblastoma

In order to detect retinoblastoma, many eye doctors will use a technique called red-reflex screening.

  • During this screening method, a child’s eye will be dilated and the doctor will look for a white spot in the pupil called the leukocoria.
  • If there is no tumor located in the eye, the light used during the procedure will appear to be red.
  • However, any sign of white could indicate the presence of retinoblastoma.

There are some parents who also catch retinoblastoma while taking photos of their babies at a young age. The flash of a camera can sometimes cause the same white effect as red-reflex screening.

Because retinoblastoma is hereditary, doctors will usually look out for signs of it if a baby has a family history of the disease. Prenatal screenings can be used to check for the gene mutation that causes retinoblastoma.

Treatment of Retinoblastoma

Although retinoblastoma is an extremely serious disease, there are many treatment methods that can be used to successfully deal with it.

  • In some cases, eye surgery must be done to remove the tumors caused by retinoblastoma.
  • Radiation therapy is another option to treat retinoblastoma.
  • Photocoagulation, a procedure that involves utilizing lasers to kill small tumors along with cryotherapy, a method that relies on cold to kill tumors, are also potential options.

However, retinoblastoma is rare and treatment usually varies on a case-by-case basis.

Contact a WNY Eye Doctor

If you believe that your child is dealing with retinoblastoma or if you think that you might be suffering from it, Ophthalmology Associates of Western New York can answer any questions you have about it and start treatment.

Contact us at 716-632-3545 today to schedule an appointment.