Kids’ Retinoblastoma Eye Discoloration

A discoloration of the eye is the most common symptom of pediatric retinoblastoma, a rare type of cancer that typically affects children under the age of six. This discoloration is in the pupil of the eye and is usually white. In some cases, the discoloration will be clearly visible upon inspection; in other cases the discoloration is evident only when direct light is shown on the eye.

This discoloration is referred to as leukocoria, and is the result of a tumor behind the eye causing light to reflect differently than it normally does. In cases of unilateral retinoblastoma, only one eye has a tumor and will reveal the discoloration, in bilateral retinoblastoma both eyes are affected and will show the discoloration. About 200 children per year in the United States are diagnosed with pediatric retinoblastoma.

Screening for Kids’ Retinoblastoma Eye Discoloration

When a patient appears to have leukocoria, the patient is usually sent to an ophthalmologist for closer observation. The ophthalmologist will inspect the eye with a retinoscope. Eye drops may be used to dilate the pupil so that the ophthalmologist can have a better view of the interior of the eye. The ophthalmologist will usually make a recommendation for further testing based on this observation, as a few different disorders may cause leukocoria.

Eye discoloration may be caused by several disorders such as:

  • Intraocular infection
  • Cataracts
  • Retinal detachment
  • Retinal malformation
  • Retinal vascular abnormality

Diagnosing Kids’ Retinoblastoma Eye Discoloration

In order to form a complete diagnosis, scan tests and blood tests may be performed. Scan tests include MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds and are used to check for a tumor that would indicate that the eye discoloration is a symptom of retinoblastoma. Blood tests may show the presence of a certain mutation in the genes if the retinoblastoma is hereditary. If retinoblastoma is detected using either of these methods, further testing may be done to check for cancer in other areas of the body and to stage the cancer.

Treating Pediatric Retinoblastoma

When a kid’s retinoblastoma eye discoloration is diagnosed, treatment should be started as soon as possible. Retinoblastoma can be life threatening and will often harm eyesight if not treated early enough. The retinoblastoma is staged to determine the best course of treatment.

If the damage to the eye or optic nerve or eye is too severe, or other treatment methods are ineffective, surgery may be done to remove the eye. This is called enucleation. There is no way to save eyesight in an eye once it has been removed, so physicians utilize this form of treatment as a last resort.

Other treatment methods for pediatric retinoblastoma include:

  • Laser therapy
  • Cryotherapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Stem cell transplants
  • Clinical trials


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“Retinoblastoma Facts.” The Retinoblastoma Center of Houston. Retinoblastoma Facts, n.d. Web. 27 Nov 2013. <>.