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Photos Can Help Diagnose Children’s Eye Problems

And Can Help Save Sight

Did you know that a photograph could provide valuable and potentially life-saving information about the health of a child's eyes?


When Tara Taylor posted a photograph of her 3-year-old daughter on Facebook, friends in her social network informed her that the glow in the girl's eye could indicate something wrong. As a result, Rylee Taylor was diagnosed with a rare eye disease that can cause vision loss, but thanks to early detection was able to save her sight.

We are taking more pictures than ever, and sharing them with a growing audience of people using social and other digital media. Paying close attention to photos of children can actually clue us in to both common and rare eye problems signaled by the reflection of the camera flash off the retina, also known as the "red reflex."

The Rainbow of Reflexes
A red reflex is produced when the flash of a camera lights up the blood-rich retina. If the eyes are looking directly at the camera lens and the color of the reflex in both eyes is red, in most cases that's a good indication that the retinas of both eyes are unobstructed and healthy.

An "abnormal red reflex" is a white, yellow or black reflection in one or both eyes. This can be a warning sign for the presence of an eye condition, which can be diagnosed by a pediatric ophthalmologist.

Dr. Jane Edmond, MD, Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital, points out that it's important to note whether a photo has been taken under optimal conditions to present a true abnormal red reflex. Be sure that:

the child is looking directly at the camera lens
the camera flash is on and the background is dimly lit
red-eye reduction is turned off
If you do spot an abnormal red reflex, bring the photo to your child's pediatrician or a pediatric ophthalmologist.

Very often, a white reflex may not actually signal anything abnormal. "Instead, the child is probably looking off to the right of the camera, and the white reflection occurs in the left eye because the optic nerve is lined up perfectly with the camera and the flash."


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