Tennessee mother of two Tara Taylor may have very well saved the vision of her 3-year-old daughter simply by posting her photo on Facebook. That’s where two observant friends saw the picture and noticed a strange glow in little Rylee’s left eye, prompting the eye exam that revealed she had Coats disease, a rare retinal disorder.
“They said, ‘Hey, I’m sure it’s nothing. It’s probably the lighting, but your daughter’s eye is glowing and you might want to have it checked out because it’s a sign there could be an issue with her eye,’” Tara told WREG Memphis. After a trip to the doctor, she discovered her friends’ instincts were right.
“Anything that happens in the retina will alter that red reflex, or ‘red eye,’ which is a reflex from the back of the retina,” Dr. Jorge Calzada tells Yahoo Shine. While Rylee’s right eye did have the typical red eye, the left eye had a larger, more yellowish glow to it, because “she had a scar in the back part of her eye,” says Calzado, the opthalmologist specializing in retinal surgery who diagnosed Rylee at the Charles Retina Institute.
Coats disease, named for the Scottish ophthalmologist George Coats, who first identified it, involves the abnormal development of the blood vessels behind the retina, which is the layer of tissue lining the eye’s inner surface. It can lead to retinal swelling and detachment and cause vision loss, typically in one eye only, if not caught early enough. In those lucky cases of early detection, such as Rylee’s, treatments including laser therapy or cryotherapy can save or restore a person’s eyesight.
Warning signs may include an eye drifting inward or a noticeable loss of vision, Calzada notes. However, this wasn’t the case for Rylee. “She didn’t sit close to the TV. She is actually in gymnastics and can walk on the balance beam, so there was no indication that there were any visual problems with her left eye,” Tara told WREG Memphis.
This has been the second medical scare within a year for the Taylor family, as Rylee’s father, Jason, was involved in a life-threatening fall from a balcony in August. The accident caused many broken bones and led to a series of surgeries, prompting a friend to start a GoFundMe effort to help the family with its medical expenses. “This is a fantastic family that has been through a lot the past 12 months,” noted a friend who commented on the WREG story. “We’re praying for Rylee’s vision.”
An eye with a glow like Rylee’s should never be ignored, Calzada stresses. “If you see that odd reflection or lack of a red reflex, get a dilated-eye exam,” he says. It could be a warning sign not only of Coats, but also of problems including a cataract, retinal detachment or even retinoblastoma, a cancerous tumor of the retina. “Thank God the child did not have that,” he says.