What is retinoblastoma?
Retinoblastoma is a cancer that starts in the retina (back inside of the eye). It is the most common type of eye cancer in children.
How does retinoblastoma develop?
The eyes develop very early as babies grow in the womb. During the early stages of development, the eyes have cells called retinoblasts that divide into new cells and fill the retina. At a certain point, these cells stop dividing and develop into mature retinal cells.
Rarely, something goes wrong with this process. Instead of maturing into special cells that detect light, some retinoblasts continue to divide and grow out of control, forming a cancer known as retinoblastoma. There are several types of retinoblastoma.
How does retinoblastoma grow and spread?
If retinoblastoma tumors are not treated, they can grow and fill much of the eyeball. Cells might break away from the main tumor on the retina and float through the vitreous to reach other parts of the eye, where they can form more tumors. If these tumors block the channels that let fluid circulate within the eye, the pressure inside the eye can rise. This can cause glaucoma, which can lead to pain and loss of vision in the affected eye.
Most retinoblastomas are found and treated before they have spread outside the eyeball. But retinoblastoma cells can occasionally spread to other parts of the body. The cells sometimes grow along the optic nerve and reach the brain. Retinoblastoma cells can also grow through the covering layers of the eyeball and into the eye socket, eyelids, and nearby tissues. Once the cancer reaches tissues outside the eyeball, it can then spread to lymph nodes (small bean-shaped collections of immune system cells) and to other organs such as the liver, bones, and bone marrow (the soft, inner part of many bones).
How important are regular eye exams?
Early detection is key with all forms of cancer. Regular eye exams may help prevent retinoblastoma from spreading and complicating treatment or causing vision loss. Schedule an appointment at San Antonio Eye Center today.
What are some common retinal diseases and conditions?
This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical care and should not be used as a substitute for a physician's advice or diagnosis. San Antonio Eye Center is not liable for any outcome or damages resulting from information obtained in this website in either an indirect or direct form.