Leukocoria is an eye symptom that can occur in children. It means "white pupil," and it can be a sign of a number of different eye conditions. Here are four things parents need to know about leukocoria.
What are the signs of leukocoria?
If your child has leukocoria, you'll notice that their pupil looks white, not black. Usually, this effect is seen in flash photos, but in some cases, the effect can be seen with the naked eye as well.
What conditions can cause leukocoria?
Leukocoria can be the first sign of a number of concerning eye conditions, so it should always be investigated by an optometrist. Leukocoria may be a sign of congenital cataracts. Cataracts refer to a clouding of the cornea. In children, they can lead to amblyopia (lazy eye) and poor vision. While cataracts are vision-threatening, they're not life-threatening and can be surgically removed.
Leukocoria can also be a sign of more serious problems, like retinoblastoma. Retinoblastoma is a tumor of the retina, which is a tissue in the very back of your child's eye. To prevent the tumor from spreading, the eye is generally removed, though radiation or chemotherapy may also be required.
Persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous (PHPV) can also be responsible for a white pupil. Normally, the eye is filled with a clear vitreous jelly. In children with PHPV, an opaque jelly forms instead. This opaque jelly is visible as a white pupil. This condition can lead to further problems like glaucoma or cataracts, so the opaque jelly will need to be removed and replaced with saline.
Is leukocoria always serious?
While leukocoria should always be evaluated by an optometrist, it's not always a sign of serious problems. Severe refractive errors can lead to a white pupil in photos, and refractive errors can be treated with glasses.
Leukocoria can also occur if the camera flash reflects off of a child's optic disc. This is just a trick of the light and isn't serious; this is a common occurrence with smartphone cameras.
How do optometrists handle leukocoria?
If your child has a white pupil, their optometrist will use a specialized tool—either an ophthalmoscope or a retinoscope—to look inside their affected eye. This test is known as a red reflex test. Normally, the retina should reflect a reddish-orange light during this test, but if leukocoria is present, the optometrist will see a white reflection. This test can help the optometrist make the correct diagnosis if there is a problem.
If your child has a white pupil, either in photos or in real life, take them to an optometrist right away. Companies like Bethany Vision Clinic may be able to meet your needs in this area.