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White Pupil (Leukocoria)

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KEY POINTS

  • Leukocoria means that the pupil of the eye looks white instead of dark. If you notice this symptom, see an eye care provider right away. The conditions that cause leukocoria can cause blindness, and some are life-threatening.
  • Treatment of leukocoria depends on its cause.

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What is leukocoria?

Leukocoria means that the pupil of the eye looks white instead of dark. If you notice this symptom, see an eye care provider right away. The conditions that cause leukocoria can cause blindness, and some are life-threatening.

What is the cause?

The retina is the lining at the back of the eye that senses light coming into the eye. Leukocoria may be a problem that you are born with. Leukocoria may also be caused by:

  • Retinoblastoma, which is cancer that develops in the retina, usually before the age of 5
  • Cataract, which is a cloudy lens inside the eye behind the iris (the colored part of the eye)
  • Scarring of the cornea, which is the clear outer layer on the front of the eye
  • Cancer of the ciliary body, which is a muscle that helps your eye focus and makes the fluid that fills the front of the eye
  • Ocular toxocariasis, which is an infection caused by roundworms

What are the symptoms?

The pupil may look white when a photograph is taken, or it may look white all the time.

How is it diagnosed?

Your child’s eye care provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and do exams and tests such as:

  • An exam using a microscope with a light attached, called a slit lamp, to look closely at the front and back of the eye
  • An exam using drops to enlarge, or dilate, your child’s pupils and a light to look into the back of your child’s eyes
  • CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to show detailed pictures of the brain and eye
  • MRI, which uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to show detailed pictures of the brain and check for swelling, stroke, or tumors

Your child may be referred to a specialist for treatment.

How is it treated?

The treatment of leukocoria depends on its cause. Cancer may be treated with chemotherapy, laser surgery, radiation therapy, or surgery. Cataracts are usually treated with surgery to replace the lens. Retinopathy of prematurity may be treated with lasers, medicines, or cryotherapy (freezing) to destroy abnormal blood vessels.

Follow the full course of treatment your child’s eye care provider prescribes. Ask your child’s provider:

  • How and when you will get your child’s test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities your child should avoid and when your child can return to normal activities
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/wilmer/
Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2019-07-25
Last reviewed: 2019-07-23
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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