White Eye in Children – There’s an App for That

There is now an app available to help screen young children’s eyes for leukocoria, more commonly known as white pupil. A white pupil in a baby’s eye or the eye of a young child can be a sign of serious eye disease such as retinoblastoma or congenital cataract.

Retinoblastoma is a childhood cancer affecting the eyes of children. Retinoblastoma is the most common primary eye cancer in children, occurring in approximately 1 in 10,00 births.

Dr Michael Jones, paediatric ophthalmologist at Sydney Ophthalmic Specialists and Head of Ophthalmology at Westmead Children’s Hospital says: “Early detection of retinoblastoma can dramatically change the outcome for children and their families, so it’s important that the message about retinoblastoma gets out as far and wide as possible.”
Detecting retinoblastoma can be as simple as taking a photo. The commonest presentation and the most important sign of retinoblastoma is a white reflex in the eye when light shines in. A camera flash usually causes a red reflex in eyes as the light bounces off the retina. Retinoblastoma tumours are characteristically white, so a white reflex may be due to light bouncing off the white tumour instead of the reddish retina.

The White Eye Detector App uses a smartphone’s camera to detect these potentially serious eye diseases in babies and young children. It works by looking through photos on the smartphone showing children’s eyes, and flags any showing leukocoria or white pupil. The app also has the ability to be used in screening mode whereby a light is shone into a child’s eye, and the app uses the camera to search for a white pupil. If the app detects any photos showing leukocoria, it will advise parents to consult a paediatric ophthalmologist.
The app was the brainchild of Bryan Shaw, a pharmacist at Baylor University in the USA. Mr Shaw’s own son was diagnosed with retinoblastoma as a baby after photographs showed a white pupil.
It is important to note that a white pupil is not the only sign of retinoblastoma in a child’s eye. Because retinoblastoma causes poor vision, another common presentation in children is with a turned or misaligned eye (childhood strabismus). Although retinoblastoma is thankfully relatively rare, the importance of having your child’s eyes checked if there is any concern is clear.
As Dr Michael Jones says; “If a child is diagnosed with retinoblastoma in Australia, thankfully the outcomes are overwhelmingly positive with over 95% of children surviving. Given that the tumour affects the retina however, 95% of children experience moderate to severe vision loss or complete blindness in the affected eye. The earlier we detect and treat the tumour the more that can be done to save vision.”

Our paediatric ophthalmologists at Sydney Ophthalmic Specialists recommend you download the White Eye Detector App, and consult a paediatric ophthalmologist if you have any concerns about your baby’s eyes or young child’s eyes. A baby is never too young to have their eyes checked by a paediatric ophthalmologist.

To download the app, visit the App Store. For more information about the app and the story behind it’s development, watch the TED talk:



Please call Sydney Ophthalmic Specialists on (02) 9241-2913 to make an appointment with one of our paediatric ophthalmologists.
Our paediatric ophthalmologists are:
Dr Frank Martin
Dr Michael Jones
Dr Craig Donaldson
Dr Caroline Catt
Dr Peter Martin