• Ashley Fan

Glowing Eyes in Flash Photography


A photographer takes a picture of a group of children with the flash on. Some of them exhibit eyes with a white and yellow glow (shown above), and some have eyes that don’t glow at all in the photo. While it may seem like these differences are insignificant, they are actually vital signs of eye disorders in children. Each light reflex is an indicator of a potential disease, ranging from a smaller issue like myopia, to a serious eye condition like retinoblastoma, all of which will be discussed below.

Patients with healthy eyes will have a red reflex; their eyes will glow red in photos. Alternatively, a white reflex, also known as leukocoria, is when patients have glowing white eyes. This can be an indicator of retinoblastoma (cancer in the retina), cartacts, and eye infections. However, in some situations, a white glow can simply be caused by light reflecting off the optic nerve at a certain angle. Either way, those with a white reflex should get their eyes examined before making any conclusions.

Yellow reflexes are very similar to white reflexes, as they are difficult to distinguish between in pictures. Even so, eyes that glow yellow are an indicator of Coat’s disease, a disorder caused by abnormal developments within the retina that can lead to retinal detachments. Coat’s disease can be treated using cryotherapy and laser eye surgery when detected earlier, but more invasive surgeries are used if diagnosed later on.

Although a red reflex indicates a healthy eye, some patients with a red reflex may experience vision problems. This is caused by an asymmetrical red reflex, which is much milder than the other two light reflexes mentioned before. In this case, instead of both eyes glowing red, only one may glow or glow dimmer than the other. The disorder associated with asymmetrical red reflex is strabismus: when a person’s eyes are misaligned. Treatments for this include eye muscle surgery or eye glasses.

It is truly fascinating how diseases can be discovered by simply taking a flash photo. Though this method can only be applied to ocular illnesses, perhaps one day, scientists may find other ways to easily identify other diseases, so that they can be detected earlier than later.


Sources:

https://chect.org.uk/about-retinoblastoma-2/whiteeye/

https://www.aao.org/eyenet/article/stepwise-approach-to-leukocoria

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/diagnosing-children-from-photographs


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