By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A new app is helping to detect eye disease. It’s a potential way to find vision problem in young children which can be difficult.

The Cradle app scans photos on your smart phone and can identify unusual glares in the eye that could be a sign of 27 different conditions.

Landon Lessman acts like any other curious and playful 6-year-old, but he had Coats disease, a blood vessel disorder that limits vision in one of his eyes.

Sarah Lessman, Landon’s mother, said the clues were hard to spot.

“Landon was a little delayed in all of his gross motor and fine motor development,” she said.

Four years ago, Lessman noticed a white glare in her son’s left eye in pictures taken with a flash. She thought it was just bad lighting, until she started doing some research.

“I remember seeing some kind of news article or news report about a little boy having cancer in his eye, and it was caught by a glow in the eye like that,” Lessman explained. “And my mom alarm bells started going off.”

Lessman downloaded Cradle, an app that scans photos already on your phone for white eye glares, which can be a symptom of Coats disease, cataracts, or even a type of eye cancer called retinoblastoma.

The app found several white glares and a specialist confirmed Landon had Coats disease.

Bryan Shaw, a Baylor University biochemist, created Cradle to help spot symptoms not easily seen by the naked eye.

“People started using it immediately. In the first few months, it was downloaded, I think, about 80,000 times,” Shaw said.

Shaw now knows about the importance of catching eye disease early. His oldest son Noah has retinoblastoma.

Shaw says he remembers seeing unusual glares in pictures of Noah just days after his birth, but didn’t realize that unlike the red eye typically seen in flash photos, a white glow could be a sign of trouble.

By the time Noah’s eye cancer was diagnosed, it was too late to save his right eye.

“If we’d got him in at 12 days old, he wouldn’t have lost his eye,” Shaw said.

Doctors say that while eye apps can generate false positives, any white glare should be checked out quickly by a doctor to limit disruption to early vision development.

Stephanie Stahl