Ask An Expert: Kids & Retinoblastoma

Ask Eyeglass World logoDear Eyeglass World,

After we got our holiday pictures back, I noticed that my five-year-old son had a white spot in the middle of his eye in almost every photo. He’s been squinting more lately, and his eyes sometimes even look red. We’ve also recently had more challenges with his behavior, especially with his short attention span. Could there be something going on with his eyes, and is it related to this new behavior?


Sam in Texas

Dear Sam,

Redness in the eyes can certainly signal underlying eye health issues. Your son’s eyes could be red from something as simple as strain or dryness. The worrisome symptom is the white spot, which could signal something like retinoblastoma. Retinoblastoma is easier to identify when light is shining directly on the eyeball, so it makes sense that a camera flash might expose it.

Retinoblastoma is a form of eye cancer that develops on the retina of children, usually ages five and under. Don’t freak out yet – it is a RARE disease that is caused by genetic mutations in the retina, although doctors aren’t sure what causes these mutations. In two-thirds of cases, retinoblastoma affects just one eye. Retinoblastoma is serious but rarely fatal.

The other symptoms you’re noticing could also be associated with retinoblastomas. Irritation can cause the redness, and the behavioral changes could be due to a frustration with these vision problems. Some children with retinoblastoma can develop glaucoma because of blocked channels and increased pressure from the tumor. Other symptoms of retinoblastomas may include vision loss, pain, crossed eyes or squinting, as the child’s eyes struggle to work around the mass.

I suggest that you make an appointment to see your optometrist at your closest Eyeglass World as soon as possible. Keep in mind that if this condition isn’t treated quickly, retinoblastomas continue to grow and spread, causing loss of vision. The cancer can also spread outside of the eye – another reason that early treatment of retinoblastomas is vital.

Your optometrist will be able to tell whether or not retinoblastoma is to blame or whether something else could be going on with your son’s vision. Either way, urgent treatment is always the best call when your children’s vision health is on the line.