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Ophthalmology 2023

Retinoblastoma: what é, symptoms, causes and treatment

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Retinoblastoma: what é, symptoms, causes and treatment
Retinoblastoma: what é, symptoms, causes and treatment

Retinoblastoma is a rare type of cancer that appears in one or both eyes of the baby, but when it is identified early, it can be treated without sequelae.

Since this condition tends to appear in very small babies, it is common for it to be difficult to identify symptoms, as the baby cannot express what he sees or feels.

That way, all babies should do the eye test right after birth, to assess if there is any change in the eye that could be a sign of this problem. Understand how the eye test is performed to identify retinoblastoma.

Pediatrician performing eye test

Pediatrician performing the little eye test

Main signs and symptoms

The best way to identify retinoblastoma is to do the eye test, which should be performed in the first week after birth, in the maternity ward, or in the first consultation with the pediatrician.

However, it is also possible to suspect retinoblastoma through signs and symptoms such as:

  • White reflection in the center of the eye, especially in flash photos;
  • Strabismus in one or both eyes;
  • Change eye color;
  • Constant redness in the eye;
  • Difficulty seeing, which makes it difficult for the baby to perceive and grasp nearby objects.

These symptoms can appear up to five years of age, but it is much more common for the problem to be identified during the first year of life, especially when the problem affects both eyes.

In addition to the eye test, the pediatrician may also order an ultrasound of the eye to help diagnose retinoblastoma.

What causes retinoblastoma

The retina is a part of the eye that develops very quickly in the early stages of a baby's development, failing to grow after that. However, in some cases, it can overgrow and form a retinoblastoma.

Usually, this overgrowth is caused by a genetic change that can be hereditary, passing from parents to children, but the change can also happen due to a random mutation, arising even when there is no history of the condition in the family.

So, when one of the parents had retinoblastoma during childhood, it is important to inform the obstetrician, so that the pediatrician is more attentive to the problem soon after birth, increasing the chances of identifying retinoblastoma early.

How the treatment is done

Treatment for retinoblastoma varies according to the degree of cancer development. As in most cases, the tumor is poorly developed, treatment is usually done with a minor surgery, in which a small laser or an ice jet is used to destroy the tumor cells. These two techniques are performed under general anesthesia to prevent the child from feeling pain or discomfort.

In more severe cases, in which the cancer has already affected other regions outside the eye, chemotherapy may be necessary to try to reduce the tumor before trying surgery. When this is not possible, surgery may be necessary to remove the eye and prevent the cancer from growing and putting the child's life at risk.

After treatment, it is necessary to make regular visits to the pediatrician to ensure that the problem has been eliminated and there are no cancerous cells that can cause the cancer to come back.

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