Retinoblastoma Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

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Retinoblastoma is a relatively obscure cancer that affects the eye's retina, which according to Contact Lens King, is a layer of tissue at the back of the eye that contains light sensitive cells that send electrical nerve impulses to the optic nerve and onward to the brain. This rare disease is most commonly expressed in children, however there have been known cases that have presented in adults as well. The object of this article is to shed some light on this disease and to discuss some basic related questions such as: What are the symptoms, causes and treatments of retinoblastoma? Can a person inherit retinoblastoma? What is the survival rate of this disease?

Retinoblastoma Symptoms

Due to the age group that this disease targets (infants and young children) it is difficult to discern detailed symptoms. However, there are some well-known signs that a parent or care giver can look for that include the following:

  • Eyes that appear to look in different directions
  • Redness of the eyes
  • The center of the pupil may seem white when exposed to light
  • Swelling of the eye

If anyone you know exhibits any of these symptoms contact your doctor for further diagnosis. It is important to note that there are various eye conditions that exist and although the above symptoms are signs of retinoblastoma they are not only unique to this disease.

Retinoblastoma Diagnosis

Some of the tests that a doctor may use to diagnose the disease may include the following:

  • Eye Exam
  • Ultrasound
  • Computerized Tomography or CT Scan
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI

Retinoblastoma Causes

Retinoblastoma is a genetic disorder affecting the retina's nerve cells causing them to mutate. This genetic mutation causes the nerve cells to multiply and grow eventually overcoming healthy cells and causing them to die. The rapid growth and replication of the mutated cells creates a mass that ultimately forms into a tumor (as illustrated below). These cell anomalies can also metastasize to other parts of the body if not diagnosed and treated in time. Although the main culprit behind this disease has not been identified it is possible that the genetic mutation is inherited.

retinoblastoma tumor

Retinoblastoma Treatment

When it comes to retinoblastoma or cancer in general the treatment pathways can vary depending on specific factors such as location, size and whether or not it has extended or metastasized beyond the initial location. Therefore, depending on the circumstances of the individual case any single one or a combination of the following treatments may be suggested:

  • Chemotherapy: Uses drugs to kill cancer cells
  • Radiation Therapy: Uses radiation to target and kill malignant cells
  • Laser Therapy: A powerful beam of light that focuses on specific targets to remove or kill affected areas
  • Thermotherapy: Body tissue is exposed to high temperatures in an effort to kill cancer cells
  • Cryotherapy: Body tissue is exposed to freezing temperatures in an effort to kill cancer cells
  • Surgery: Procedure that tries to physically remove affected areas such as tumors

Can you Inherit Retinoblastoma?

As previously mentioned, inheriting the genetic mutation has been suggested as one of the possible causes behind this disease. For this reason, it is suggested that families who have a history of this disease perform the appropriate genetic testing in an effort to become informed of the level of risk to their children.

What is the Survivial Rate of Retinoblastoma?

The St. Jude Children's research hospital reports a 95% success rate in the treatment of this disease provided that the tumor has not metastasized and remains contained to the eye.

Although Retinoblastoma is a terrifying disease that affects children, awareness of its symptoms can allow for a proactive treatment approach that can lead to a successful recovery. Of course each case is unique, and therefore treatments can vary with sometimes less than predictable outcomes. Nevertheless medicine has come a long way in the treatment of Retinoblastoma and therefore the vast majority of children with this disease should be comforted in knowing that they could have high expectations to live a normal life post treatment.

Retinoblastoma | St. Jude Children's Hospital
Retinoblastoma Diagnosis | Mayo Clinic
Eye Anatomy: Parts of the Eye | Contact Lens King Blog
What Is Retinoblastoma Video| Contact Lens King Inc.
What Causes Retinoblastoma Video| Contact Lens King Inc.


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