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What is Retinoblastoma: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

DR. LIPI MITTAL In Retinoblastoma

Jun 03, 2024 | 4 min read

Retinoblastoma is a condition affecting children, specifically their eyes. It’s essential to understand what it is, what causes it, and how it can be treated to ensure the best outcomes for affected children. In this blog, we will understand retinoblastoma signs and symptoms along with its causes and treatments.


What is Retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma is a type of eye cancer that mostly affects children under the age of five. It originates in the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. The retina is crucial for vision, as it sends visual messages to the brain via the optic nerve.


Causes of Retinoblastoma

Retinoblastoma is primarily caused by genetic mutations. These mutations can either be inherited from the parents or occur spontaneously during the child’s development in the womb. Inherited retinoblastoma is usually bilateral, meaning it affects both eyes, whereas the non-inherited form tends to be unilateral, affecting only one eye.


Symptoms of Retinoblastoma

Recognizing the retinoblastoma symptoms early is crucial for timely intervention and successful treatment. Some common signs and symptoms include:


  • White Pupil (Leukocoria): One of the most noticeable signs is a white pupil instead of the typical red-eye glow in photos. This may appear like a white or yellowish glow in the affected eye.
  • Strabismus (Crossed Eyes): The eyes may appear misaligned or crossed, known as strabismus, due to the tumor causing the affected eye to turn inward or outward.
  • Poor Vision: Children may exhibit poor vision or complain of blurry vision, especially in the affected eye.
  • Redness or Swelling: There may be redness, swelling, or inflammation in the eye, accompanied by pain or irritation.
  • Change in Eye Shape: The affected eye may appear larger or smaller than the other eye due to the presence of the tumor.

It’s important to note that these symptoms can caused by other, less serious conditions. However, if any of these signs are noticed, it’s essential to consult a pediatrician or an eye specialists for a thorough examination.


Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing retinoblastoma typically involves a comprehensive eye examination, which may include:


  • Eye Exam: The doctor will examine the child’s eyes using specialized instruments to look for signs of retinoblastoma.
  • Imaging Tests: Imaging tests such as ultrasound, MRI, or CT scans may be conducted to get detailed images of the eye and the tumor.
  • Biopsy: In some cases, a small tissue sample from the tumor may be taken for further analysis (biopsy) to confirm the diagnosis.

Retinoblastoma treatment options depend on the size and location of the tumor, as well as whether it has spread to other parts of the eye or body.


Common Treatment Modalities Include:

  • Chemotherapy: This involves using drugs to kill cancer cells or shrink the tumor. Chemotherapy may be given orally, intravenously, or directly into the eye (intra-arterial chemotherapy).
  • Radiation Therapy: High-energy radiation beams are used to target and destroy cancer cells. This can be delivered externally (external beam radiation) or internally (plaque radiation therapy).
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the tumor or the affected eye (enucleation) to prevent the cancer from spreading.
  • Laser Therapy: Laser treatment may be used to destroy small tumors or to stop the growth of blood vessels that feed the tumor.




Retinoblastoma is a rare but serious eye cancer that primarily affects young children. Recognizing the symptoms early and seeking prompt medical attention is crucial for timely diagnosis and effective treatment at the best eye hospital in India. With advances in medical technology and treatment options, the outlook for children with retinoblastoma has improved significantly, with many children achieving complete remission and preserving their vision. If you notice any unusual signs or symptoms in your child’s eyes, don’t hesitate to consult a pediatric ophthalmologist for further evaluation and management. Early detection and intervention can make a world of difference in the outcome for children battling retinoblastoma.

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