How the Red Eye in Photos can Detect Eye Cancer

Isn’t your toddler looking cute in her frilly little dress today? You whip out your mobile camera. 7-8 shots of blurry pictures later (it’s just then that your frisky two year old decides to turn into a hopping rabbit)… you finally get one good click. Sheh! You curse yourself for forgetting to turn on the red eye removal mode. The next time this happens, don’t curse yourself – these red eyes in photographs can help detect cancer in your child’s eyes. Read on to know how.

The Red Reflex:

When the flash of a camera hits your child’s eye, light gets reflected off the retina or the back of our eye. Since these layers have a lot of vessels supplying blood, the reflected light has a reddish – orange hue called the red reflex. This red reflex is a good indication that your child’s retinas are healthy.

Abnormal Red Reflexes:

Occasionally you may find the red reflex is either unequal or has been replaced by a white or yellow reflex. Each of these can be indicative of a serious eye condition.

Unequal red reflex: If you notice that only one of your child’s eye appears red in photographs or if one is dimmer than the other, this may indicate the presence of strabismus. Strabismus or squint is a condition in which both the eyes do not look at the same place at the same time. Dr. Prachi Agashe, Paediatric Ophthalomologist and Squint Specialist in Mumbai, says, “Squint can be corrected easily if treated early. But if neglected for long, it can even leave your child with a blind eye.”

White Reflex: Medically known as leukocoria, a white reflex may be an indication of several serious eye problems like detachment of the retina, eye infections and cataract in children. This white reflex can also indicate the presence of a very rare but very dangerous eye cancer called retinoblastoma.

Yellow Reflex: Sometimes the blood vessels supplying oxygen to the retina of your child’s eye can become leaky and twisted. This is known as Coat’s disease where the blood vessels can go on to cause a blockage leading to loss of vision or detachment of the retina.

Removing the Red Eye:

Newer technology in cameras has provided the facility to have a red eye reduction feature in which the flash bulb lights up twice. When the first flash goes off, the little black hole in your child’s eye (called the pupil) contracts as a natural response. Then as the second flash goes off a few milliseconds later, the photograph is clicked with the pupil size having reduced considerably, thereby reducing the red eye effect.

Many cameras have this setting as a default one, and months go by without the parents realizing that their child may have a defective red reflex. Kids are not able to realise that vision in one eye has been compromised since the other is working normally. It’s a good idea to purposely take a picture and check your child’s red reflex.

How to Click Photos to Check the Red Reflex:

Here is a step by step guide on how you can click a photo to check for your child’s red reflex:

  1. Use a camera with the flash setting on. Regular cameras are more reliable than smartphone camera for the flash.
  2. Turn down the lights in your room. Ensure that any light sources like table lamps and tubelights are behind your kid so that they do not get reflected in your kid’s eyes.
  3. Turn off the red eye reduction setting (indicated with a diagonal line through an eye symbol.)
  4. Stand four metres away from your kid and zoom in to focus on your kid’s entire head.
  5. Click pictures from multiple angles. Have somebody play with your child when you click so that your kid’s eyes do not follow the camera. Check each photo for any absent or asymmetrical red reflex.

Did you find this guide on how to check the red reflex in photos to detect eye cancer in children useful? If you have any concerns about whether your child may have an abnormal red reflex, do not hesitate to visit our Paediatric Ophthalmologist at Agashe Hospital in Kurla, Mumbai. You may book an appointment by calling 022 42435000 right away.