Pediatric Retinoblastoma Blindness

Pediatric retinoblastoma is a type of cancer that that occurs most often in children under the age of five. Retinoblastoma affects the retinal cells within the eye, and can cause blindness. While the disease is cured in about 90 percent of cases, blindness or vision impairment is a common complication, even in those that are cured of the disease.

Causes of Pediatric Retinoblastoma Blindness

While being born with pediatric retinoblastoma automatically puts a patient at risk for blindness or vision impairment, certain factors can influence the likelihood of these complications. Delayed diagnosis is one such factor, as tumors that have been given more time to grow are more difficult to treat. Other risk factors include certain types of treatment and type of retinoblastoma.

Hereditary Retinoblastoma Risks

There are two types of retinoblastoma, hereditary and non-hereditary. Those that are born with hereditary retinoblastoma have the cell mutation that creates the tumor within the eye within all body cells, including both eyes. This substantially increases the risk of having tumors in both eyes, making pediatric retinoblastoma blindness a possibility, even with treatment. Those with non-hereditary retinoblastoma usually only have a tumor in one eye, so while that eye is at risk, the risk of complete blindness is not as high.

Types of Treatment

Once diagnosed, physicians must assess the extent which the tumor has taken over the eye. Based on this and the placement and size of the tumor, physicians decide the best course of treatment. In many cases, surgery to remove the eye or eyes is necessary to remove all of the cancer. When an eye has been removed, vision cannot be restored and pediatric retinoblastoma blindness results. Other forms of treatment, such as cryotherapy and radiation therapy, can inhibit vision but will not usually cause total blindness.

Coping with Pediatric Retinoblastoma Blindness

Once a child has undergone surgery to remove the eyes, or has gone blind from the effects of pediatric retinoblastoma, many lifestyle changes must be made. This can be emotionally and physically taxing on both the child and parents. Emotional counseling may help patients and family members find someone that can relate to the situation and provide advice. Emotional disorders will add a degree of difficulty in recovering from the disease, so the patient’s emotional state should be carefully monitored.

Blindness requires many tools that most people are not familiar with. Brail reading materials and audio books will help to educate the child, so that the child does not fall behind intellectually. Computer programs utilizing speech and sound are available for those that are visually impaired. Canes or service animals may help in getting around. As with any major lifestyle change, adjusting to pediatric retinoblastoma blindness takes patience and research.


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