A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words in Detecting Eye Diseases in Children

Although you can easily fix red-eye and other photo bloopers with editing tools on your smartphone or computer, you should take note of any eye abnormalities you spot in photos of your children. A strange glow or yellow hue can indicate a number of different eye conditions, some of them more serious than others. At Charleston Cornea, we want you to understand how and why this works.

When the camera flash reflects off the blood-rich retina — the back part of your eye that transmits light cells to your brain — this reflection may result in red-eye in your photos, also called red reflex.

Although a photo with red-eye may be frustrating, it is also a sign that your child’s eyes are healthy. If your child’s eyes appear black, white, or yellow in the photo, it can be a sign of an eye condition.

It may be a minor condition such as myopia or astigmatism, which can be corrected with glasses. In other cases, this eye glow, as it’s sometimes called, may be an indication of something more serious that can eventually rob your child of vision.

If a white glow, also called leukocoria, covers most of your child’s pupil in the photo, it could be a sign of cataracts, retinal detachments, or retinoblastoma, a rare but serious form of childhood cancer. The glow is an indicator of about 16 eye diseases.

Why Photos Are Important

Many serious eye conditions have no symptoms — no pain, irritation, or eyesight issues. Parents tend to take numerous digital photos of their children. Whether they post them online or share them with friends and relatives, these photos provide an opportunity to detect an eye condition early, when it is most treatable. For example, when retinoblastoma is caught early, it has a 95% cure rate.

What to Look for in Photos

There are some things to note if you do, or don’t, spot red-eye, a glow, or abnormal hue in one or both of your child’s eyes in a photo. Was your child looking directly into the camera? If not, the camera’s flash may have captured a side glimpse of the whites of their eyes.

For purposes of eye health evaluation, only use photos in which your child is looking directly at the camera.

Don’t be concerned if your child does not have red-eye in the photo. That is not necessarily an indication that something is wrong. Check to see if your flash is actually on or if you’ve enabled the red-eye reduction setting on your camera.

If you suspect a problem with your child’s eyes, review older photos as well to confirm or alleviate your concerns.

What to Do if You Suspect a Problem

A photo alone is not enough to diagnose your child’s eye condition. It’s a sign, though, that you should seek a professional exam.

If you notice some of these photo eye issues, have your child checked out as soon as possible by a medical professional like Dr. David O’Day of Charleston Cornea at either the Mount Pleasant or North Charleston, South Carolina, office for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

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