Does Retinoblastoma Cause Blindness?

Retinoblastoma is an uncommon eye cancer that starts in the retina and can cause blindness if left untreated. Retinoblastoma may require surgery, laser therapy, or chemotherapy.

Every year, retinoblastoma affects about 8,000 kids. The retina is where this uncommon eye cancer starts. The retina, which is located close to the optical nerve, is in charge of turning light into electrical signals that travel to the brain and produce the images you see.

The majority of cases of retinoblastoma are in very young children. People of all ages, nevertheless, may be impacted. Reduced vision, crossed eyes, and a white pupil when light is shone on it are some early indications.

In the absence of therapy, retinoblastoma can result in blindness and perhaps death. Chemotherapy, laser therapy, or surgery are possible forms of treatment.

How does retinoblastoma cause blindness?

Undiagnosed and untreated retinoblastoma can result in the development and growth of a tumour. Eventually, a tumour's size and placement may interfere with normal eye function and result in blindness.

Cancerous cells have the potential to spread to organs other than the eye, such as the brain, as they mature. This may have a detrimental effect on vision.

Blindness can also result from some retinoblastoma therapies. For instance, laser treatment may cause internal eyeball damage or scar tissue, which could impair vision.

An enucleation procedure may be required if the retinoblastoma progresses, removing the entire eyeball. Complete blindness will ensue if this procedure is required for both eyes.

It's critical to discuss with your doctor the potential effects of different treatments on your child's or your future vision and to include this information in any treatment plan.

What are the signs and symptoms of retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma symptoms can include:
  • watery eyes
  • reduced vision
  • a pupil that turns white when the eye is illuminated
  • eyes crossed or one that strays in the other direction
  • discomfort, oedema, or redness around the eyes
When a child with retinoblastoma views objects, you could notice that they move them closer to their face. They might also stumble more frequently or run into obstacles when attempting to manoeuvre.

You must let your child's physician know if you observe any of these signs. This will enable them to rule out significant diseases related to eyesight, including retinoblastoma.

What causes retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma is usually caused by mutations in the RB1 gene, per a 2018 study. These mutations may arise spontaneously or be inherited.

The RB1 gene is present in every person in two copies, one from each parent. A single retinal cell's two copies must mutate for retinoblastoma to develop.

Less than 3% of patients do not have an RB1 gene mutation. Usually, these situations start before the infant turns six months old.

According to a 2021 study, less than 2% of children's malignancies that are diagnosed are thought to be caused by retinoblastoma. Less than 5% of children in high-income nations are predicted to die from retinoblastoma. However, up to 70% of children in African nations might not receive a diagnosis in time for them to survive.

Every gender has the same chance of acquiring retinoblastoma. The likelihood that a kid would develop retinoblastoma does not appear to be influenced by ethnicity either. Just 10% of children diagnosed with retinoblastoma can trace the problem back to a family member.

Retinoblastoma primarily affects children under the age of five, while it can also strike adults and older children. Because of this, it's critical to keep an eye out for the condition's symptoms throughout your life and to get medical attention right away if you do.

19% of the children with bilateral retinoblastoma in a 2019 research had legal blindness. 38% of cases had visual impairment.

Is retinoblastoma curable?

Retinoblastoma cannot be prevented, yet it may be treatable if detected early enough by a physician. The size of the tumour and whether the cancer has spread to any other places of the body will determine the precise treatment strategy they recommend.

Retinoblastoma treatment options include:
  • chemotherapy
  • cryotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • surgery
  • laser therapy

The bottom line

Children under the age of five are most commonly affected by retinoblastoma, an uncommon type of eye cancer that starts in the retina.

It's crucial to keep an eye out for signs of this condition, such as crossed eyes, even before your child can speak, as early intervention lowers the chance of severe consequences like blindness. Retinoblastoma has the potential to cause blindness or even death if left untreated.

Retinoblastoma may be treated with surgery, laser therapy, or chemotherapy. The size and spread of the tumour will determine the optimal course of therapy, which a specialist will discuss with you.


What happens to the eye in retinoblastoma?

In the retina, tumours (clusters of cells) form as a result of retinal retinoblastoma. This is the result of uncontrollably growing nerve cells. This indicates a breakdown in the proper communication between the eye and the brain. Although retinoblastoma can occur at any age, children under the age of two account for the majority of instances.

Can children with retinoblastoma see?

When treatment for retinoblastoma in children with eye cancer starts before the disease has spread outside the eye, most of them recover. Maintaining vision is one of the main objectives of treatment for children with retinoblastoma. Over 95% of children with retinoblastoma can receive a full recovery of their vision.

What is the life expectancy of someone with retinoblastoma?

Adults are uncommonly affected with retinoblastoma; it typically affects young children. The likelihood of retinoblastoma survival: For children diagnosed with retinoblastoma, the 5-year survival rate is 96%. Nine times out of ten youngsters who have retinoblastoma can typically recover.

Does eye cancer cause blindness?

Your malignancy is not expected to result in total blindness. However, you might want assistance to acquire new abilities that will help you adjust if you have previously experienced visual loss in one eye. For instance, your specialised eye doctor may advise you to think about getting a guide dog.

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