The mother of a six year old boy who was diagnosed with a brain tumour following a routine eye test is urging parents to get their children’s eyes tested.
Tanya Phibben from Mountain Ash took her son Iestyn to a routine eye test at his local Specsavers when the optician picked up a blur on his optic nerve. Following a referral to the University Hospital of Wales (UHW), Cardiff, Iestyn was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
At this time of year many parents have been preparing for their children to go back to school, buying new uniforms, school shoes and stationery, but many forget to get their children’s eyes tested.
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board is urging parents to ensure their child’s eye health is high on the list, as a visit to your local optician is not just important in order to check your child’s sight, but it can also pick up a number of health conditions.
Iestyn had been suffering with headaches and general tiredness, and his left eyelid was droopy. Tests carried out revealed he had a swelling of the optic nerve head.
Iestyn was referred to Consultant Neurosurgeon Dr M Imran Bhatti at UHW who carried out a 15 hour operation with his skull base neurosurgical colleague, Miss Caroline Hayhurst, to remove the tumour from this delicate area.
Dr Bhatti said: “Although this tumour grows very slowly it could be life threatening due to its critical location. It causes pressure on the brainstem, the area which controls important functions like breathing and the heart etc. It can also cause a build-up of fluid in the brain by blocking its normal flow.
“The tumour was completely removed during the intricate operation, except a little bit that was left along the facial nerve to avoid Iestyn having facial weakness. His overall prognosis from this tumour is good as it was benign and he is having regular check-ups.
“It is very rare to have this specific tumour, especially one of that size, at Iestyn’s young age, so this could have been something he was born with. However, an abnormality being picked up at a routine eye test has helped us to treat his condition.”
Headaches and squinting are common signs of tumour, and other relevant signs with this type of tumour are imbalance, tinnitus, vertigo and reduced hearing. Advanced cases will have additional signs including facial numbness and swallowing problems.
Tanya Phibben said; “I hope that Iestyn’s story can raise awareness of how important regular eye tests are. I will always ensure that Iestyn and his sister have regular eye tests, and if he hadn’t gone to the opticians that day his tumour may still be undetected.
“For something that takes a small amount of time I would urge all parents to get their child’s eyes tested as it’s such an important part of their overall health and visiting the optician helps with so much more than just checking if you need a pair of glasses.”
Dr Sharon Hopkins, Director of Public Health for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said: “Many people do not realise how important an eye test is or how useful, and in this instance life-saving, their local optician can be.
“A sight test can pick up a number of conditions, not just those affecting your sight. For many people this test is free and we would encourage everyone to make sure they visit their opticians regularly. They can help with the eye test, but also many other eye-related conditions and they can usually see you straight away, instead of making an appointment with your GP.”
Eye tests and examinations are free of charge for children aged under 16 and the ideal age for a child to have their first eye test is between three and five years of age.
Regular eye tests are important as your eyes may not necessarily hurt if something is wrong and guidelines suggest that everyone should have an eye sight test at least every two years.