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Glowing Eyes in Photos Can Indicate an Eye Disease

Glowing Eyes

“Know the Glow” is an awareness campaign to share an educational eye health warning message with all parents around the world. Its name “know the glow” intends to promote and propagate the message that a typical “golden glow reflected back from your child’s eye in a flash photograph can indicate some serious eye disease or even cancer. Therefore, as the old saying goes that “prevention is better than cure”, knowing about the glow can help people facilitate about early detection and prevention of some serious eye problems promptly.

The alarming glow statistics
The estimated statistics about the possible glow in children are alarming. It has been estimated that about one in every 80 children will have a glow in either one or both eyes. The white reflection can indicate a number of eye diseases of which 80% could be prevented from blindness. Therefore, while the statistics do pose a severe threat, there is also a great hope based of complete cure based on the early detection and prevention.

What is the goal of Know the Glow?
The basic objective of this campaign is to promote early detection and treatment of preventable serious and severe common eye diseases (e.g. retinoblastoma, Coats’ Disease, Norrie’s Disease) that could lead to blindness of children

Background of Know the Glow
The idea of Know the Glow basically originated when Megan Webber, the mother of six-year old Benjamin Webber noticed that one of her son’s eyes frequently showed some “golden glow” in all the family photographs. Initially, the small, pointed glow was mistaken as some freckle by his relatives. However, fortunately, his mother, Megan Webber, took timely notice and acted quickly. She learned that this glow could be a sign of a deadly eye disease, potentially resulting in a lifetime of blindness for her son. Therefore, she took him to an ophthalmologist who, upon detailed and careful examination of Benjamin’s eyes, confirmed that his mother’s concerns were right.

That is how, with the support from the ophthalmologists in The Vision Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Benjamin was diagnosed early with Coat’s disease and treated promptly enough to save his eye sight and vision.

What is Coat’s disease?
Coat's disease is a very rare congenital, non-hereditary eye disorder in which blood vessels of the retina develop abnormally and can lead to partial or total blindness. Coat's disease predominantly occurs in young males in their first decade of life and is usually unilateral (only affecting one eye). Blood leaks from the abnormal blood vessels, cholesterol deposits in the retina and leads to retinal detachment. However, through early treatment, vision can often be restored. Flash photography usually creates a "red-eye" effect caused by a reflection of normal blood vessels in the retina. In Coat's disease, flash photography creates a "yellow-eye" effect due to the cholesterol deposits in the retina. It is important to recognize the yellow glow and seek medical advise accordingly.

What is retinoblastoma?
It is the second most common cause of appearance glow in the eyes of children. Retinoblastoma is a tumor in the eye. The cancer arises from a mutation in the gene that causes cells in the retina to divide and grow out of control. It can occur in one eye or both and generally affects children under the age of 6. However, like other most cancers, early detection is key and many treatment options exist such as chemotherapy and beam radiation.

Glowing Eye ChildrenOther diseases that could cause the glow
Some other eye disorders that could produce glow in the eyes include amblyopia, cataract, coloboma, Norrie’s Disease, refractive error, retinal detachment, retinal dysplasia, retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), strabismus, toxocariasis and trauma (injury).

How to detect the glow?
Eye doctors and pediatricians can easily check and screen for Coats' Disease, Retinoblastoma, and a host of other serious eyesight related diseases. Pediatricians, for example, can easily diagnose the same by using a simple red-reflex text test which is done at a well-child exam, preferably within the first two months of the birth.

What parents should know
As a parent, however, you have the most important duty of learning and understanding the causes and the signs that indicate any of such underlying glow-related disorders. Parents should also be vigilant all the time and never ignore any of such signs (e.g. a white / golden glow in the child’s eye) especially in photographs. This is, indeed, one of the simplest and home-based ways of detecting the same as many times, parents are the first to notice a white or golden glow reflected back from their child's eye in a picture or photograph.

Following these simple steps can help you detect the glow:

  1. Glowing Eyes ChildrenTake some flash pictures / photographs of your children in different positions, lighting and angles
  2. Do not apply red eye correction on your camera while taking those pictures
  3. Remember to look through the pictures to check if you notice a white glow in either or both eyes of the child
  4. You can also ask your pediatrician to perform a red reflex screening.

Finally, if you think you have just noticed some sort of glow, you should immediately consult a pediatrician or an ophthalmologist for confirmation, early diagnosis and treatment. The more you know, the better you'll be able to fight against these deadly disorders.

Additional Resources
1. Visit the Know the Glow website, official YouTube Channel and Facebook page for additional information, links and videos or to help promote the campaign.

2. QUICK FAQS: What You Need to Know About Coats’ Disease


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