Are half the photos on your phone pictures of your baby? Take a closer look at those photos – they might reveal a rare eye disease called retinoblastoma, which is a milkiness due to tumors developing in the back of the eye.
The recent findings came to light due to the curiosity of Bryan Shaw, a chemistry professor at Baylor University. His wife noticed that their son, Noah, was experiencing “red eye” in one eye and a milky white reflection in the other in many of the photos she took – some as early as 12 days after Noah was born.
Doctors found that the milkiness was a result of light reflecting off tumors that had formed in the back of Noah’s eye. This rare form of eye disease, called retinoblastoma, reveals that the more milkiness the photos show, the bigger the eye tumor. After his son was diagnosed, Professor Shaw began work with Noah’s doctors to discover more about the disease. The researchers looked at more than 7,000 photos (from the Shaws and other families) and found that digital photos can reveal the initial stages of retinoblastoma even if the camera “red eye” setting is turned on.
The practical implication is the benefit of discovering the initial stages of the disease through photos – especially in developing countries where access to digital photography might be easier than access to a doctor.
Ophthalmologist Thomas Henderson, M.D. explains, “”This disease was often first found by noticing a white pupil after many months of tumor growth inside their child’s eye. Now that it is known that the ‘white pupil’ can be detected in smartphone photographs, retinoblastoma is likely to detected earlier and have improved results through treatment of an earlier stage of disease.”