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“White Eye” Photos May Be Sign Of Serious Disease

By Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) – “Red Eyes” are a common frustration when it comes to taking pictures. But doctors are warning parents that “White Eyes” in a child’s photo can be an indication of a serious medical condition.

In rare cases, it can be a sign of retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye. “It can spread outside the eye and be fatal if it is not picked up,” said Dr. Michael Hunt, a pediatric eye specialist.

That was Makenzie Foreman’s diagnosis. She had tumors in her left eye and began chemotherapy when she was just six months old. Her eye eventually had to be removed.

“It was obviously extremely emotional,” said her mom Becky. As Becky and her husband Matt struggled to understand the diagnosis, they went back and looked at baby photos of Makenzie. Matt said they were then able to make out a glow in her eye in those pictures. Instead of a red dot over her eyeball, they saw a white one.

Dr. Hunt says that in a healthy eye, the light bounces off the back of the eye and creates a red spot. But if the path of the light is blocked by an obstruction, the red spot is replaced by one that is white or yellow.

Bryan Shaw had the same experience. Photos of his son Noah revealed a white eye at just 12 days old. “We think if we were second time parents we would have known something was wrong with the eyes,” said Shaw. Noah also had to have an eye surgically removed.

Shaw is a scientist and wondered if a camera phone could be used to detect and analyze white eye. Computer scientists from Baylor University are turning that idea into an App. It will scan photos right on a phone or tablet and indicate when there might be a problem.

Becky Foreman wishes she had an earlier indication of Makenzie’s problem. “We need to make parents aware that there is a potential out there for their children to have RV.”

Although retinoblastoma is rare, it is the most common cancer affecting the eyes of children. It is usually diagnosed before a child reaches the age of three.

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