Retinoblastoma

Definition

Retinoblastoma is a rare type of cancer found in the eye. In retinoblastoma, one or more tumors form in the retina. The retina is a layer of light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. It converts visual images into nerve impulses in the brain that allow us to see.As with most cancers, early diagnosis and treatment lead to better outcomes.
Retina of the Eye
Retina of the Eye
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

During early stages of fetal development, fast-growing, immature cells called retinoblasts form. Later, these cells become retinal cells. In retinoblastoma, some of these cells quickly grow out of control. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue called a tumor grows. The cancer may grow along the optic nerve and reach the brain, or it may travel to other parts of the body.It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells, but it is probably a combination of genetics and environment.

Risk Factors

Retinoblastoma is more common in children under 5 years old. Other factors that may increase your child's chance of retinoblastoma include:
  • Defect in retinoblastoma gene
  • Family members with retinoblastoma

Symptoms

Retinoblastoma usually forms only in one eye, but both eyes may have tumors. Symptoms are usually noticed by the parent or caregiver and may include, but are not limited to:
  • Eyes do not look normal, often described as a glazed look or a “cat’s eye.”
  • When a light is directed at the eye, the pupil looks white rather than red. This is often noticed on a photograph.
  • Eyes may appear to be crossed or looking in different directions.
  • Less common symptoms may include:
    • Eye may grow in size
    • Eye pain
    • Redness in the white part of the eye
    • Excessive tearing
    • Pupil may not respond to light
    • Iris (colored part of the eye) changes color
    • Double vision
Normal Anatomy of the Eye
IMAGE
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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