What is Leukocoria?
Leukocoria means “white pupil,” and is characterized by the presence of white light reflected off the back of the eye. This white reflection can be seen when you look directly into a bright light source, such as a camera flash.
Typically, you see a red-eye effect on photos taken with a flash, but with leukocoria, the pupil appears white. Leukocoria is most often seen in people who have an eye disease or when there is damage to the back of the eye. Therefore prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential.
- Leukocoria means “white pupil” which is noticeable when someone looks at a bright light source.
- Adult leukocoria could be a sign of a cataract or another eye problem.
- Leukocoria is a symptom of several diseases, such as Coats disease, congenital cataract, corneal scarring, and ciliary body melanoma.
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The red reflex describes the reddish-orange light reflection from the fundus. You may be able to appreciate this when looking at old photos where the eyes appear “red.” The red is abnormal if there is asymmetry between the eyes, black blotches, or a white reflex (leukocoria).
The retina absorbs light that enters the eye through the pupil, but also reflects some which exits the eye through the pupil. This reflected light has a reddish-orange tint that resembles a healthy retina. When the eye is parallel to the light source, the “red reflex” is most readily visible.
With leukocoria, the red reflex is either nonexistent or appears white. Pediatricians will refer patients who exhibit an “abnormal red reflex” to an eye doctor for a complete eye exam. Primary care providers will do the same in adults.
How to Detect Leukocoria
When the white pupil is very visible, you can see it just by looking into the eye in ideal lighting. In other cases, the pupil may only appear white under specific conditions, such as when the pupil enlarges in a dim environment or when the person is looking in a specific direction.
Sometimes a photo taken with a flash camera can highlight the white pupil in children and adults. A pediatrician can discover leukocoria during a regular visit. Specifically, when the doctor uses an ophthalmoscope to examine the eyes or a portable visual acuity and red reflex machine.
What Causes Leukocoria?
There are several disorders that may cause leukocoria. These include cataracts, retinal detachments, retinopathy of prematurity, endophthalmitis, abnormalities of the retinal blood vessels (such as Coat’s disease), and intraocular tumors (retinoblastoma). The presence of leukocoria always warrants a dilated exam with an eye doctor.
Symptoms Of Leukocoria
In adults with leukocoria, symptoms will reflect the underlying cause of the white pupil. For instance, with cataracts, adult patients may also complain about blurry vision and glare. With retinal detachment, patients may experience flashes, floaters, and a “curtain-like” sensation over their vision.
In children, the symptoms are subtle and not easily detected, which is why screening is so important. Depending on how long a child has had leukocoria, their affected eye may not line up with their good eye (strabismus), or the child tilts her head to use the good eye for seeing.
A red reflex exam is an important health check that should be performed on all infants during their first two months of life, and periodically thereafter. This exam allows pediatricians to determine whether the infant has any vision problems and can help to plan treatment. Conducting this examination in a darkened room, preferably voluntarily, using a direct ophthalmoscope held close to the infant’s eyes is the best way to ensure accuracy and precision.
Doctors use the same diagnostic process in adults.
It is critical your child visit an eye doctor as soon as leukocoria is suspected. It requires urgency. Recommended treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the leukocoria.
In adults, cataract surgery is recommended when cataracts are the cause of leukocoria. In children, tumor surgery and chemotherapy may be recommended when retinoblastoma is the cause.