Monday, November 11, 2013

The Windows to Our Health

Our eyes can tell so much about the way we are feeling, emotionally and physically. Our red, itchy eyes are what give us away when we have allergies, or if we’ve been crying because we received bad news. The sparkle in our eye gives us away when we’re happy or when we find something funny. And now a white spot on our eye can also tell us when we have a serious eye disease. 

When Noah Shaw was just 3 months old, his mother Elizabeth noticed that there was a white reflection in Noah’s eye when she took a picture with her digital camera. She knew this wasn’t the typical “red eye” that many of us suffer from in our pictures. Elizabeth had learned from parenting magazines that this could be a sign of retinoblastoma, a rare type of cancer that usually develops in early childhood. 

Elizabeth took Noah to the pediatrician who then referred her to an ophthalmologist, who confirmed the worstNoah had tumors in both eyes. After months of chemotherapy, radiation, and finally a surgery to remove Noah’s right eye, Noah’s father, Bryan wondered if they could have caught the tumors in Noah’s eyes earlier. After looking at pictures, he realized that the white spot in Noah’s eyes started appearing at only 12 days old, but only when the photo was taken at a certain angle, and as the tumors grew, the white reflection occurred more frequently.

Retinoblastoma is a very rare disease, affecting only 12 out of every million children between the ages of 0 and 4 years old, but early detection is key in saving a child’s vision and even their life. Today Noah is in good health and in good spirits. He likes to draw and sing and he has received a prosthesis for his right eye, which allows him to look like any kid his age.

NPR Blog

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