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Jan 22

Not Just a Trick of the Eye: Investigating “The Glow” (Leukocoria)

leukocoria white eye

A child with leukocoria
due to retinoblastoma in the left eye.

We’ve all fallen victim to the dreaded “red eye”: that nasty crimson light that appears in pupils when photos are taken with a flash. While there is a simple and safe explanation for red eyes in photos – they appear when a camera captures light reflected from the retinas due to the flash – a similar effect known as “the Glow” is not so benign.

The Glow, or leukocoria, describes a reflection that appears from the eye’s retina; in flash photography, it appears as a yellow, white, or opaque spot in the pupil. About one in 80 kids will display The Glow by the time they turn five. Unlike the innocent annoyance of red eye in photos, The Glow can be indicative of more than 20 types of eye conditions and diseases. The Glow can indicate conditions that are present from birth, such as congenital tumors, disorders, and disease. It can also help detect malformations or dysfunction in the eyes, infections, and cancer.

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), the most prevalent childhood conditions are vision disorders, and more than one out of ten kids is at risk of undetected vision issues. Fortunately, if detected early, most disorders and diseases of the eye can be prevented, treated, and even cured.

Checking for Leukocoria

While The Glow can’t be diagnosed by the untrained, it can be detected. Here are some ways to check your photos for The Glow:

  • Check photos where flash was used and red eye reduction features were not used
  • The Glow may not always be present, so review several photos, especially where your child is directly looking at the camera
  • The Glow presents as a yellow, white, or opaque spot in the pupil; if you see it once, look for more evidence of it
  • If you see The Glow twice in the same eye, don’t panic! Make an appointment with your optometrist, and make sure your child gets a comprehensive exam, including a red reflex test
  • Be sure you bring your child in for regular comprehensive eye exams, and spread the word about The Glow to friends and family who have young children

80% of Childhood Blindness is Preventable or Curable

In most cases where The Glow is identified, it’s a family friend or parent who first notices the abnormality in photos. The Glow and its associated disorders and diseases can be frightening, but 80% of childhood blindness is preventable or curable, so taking steps to protect your child’s vision and eye health is paramount. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s eye health or vision, contact us today to schedule an appointment.