Eye test could prevent tragedy

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A trip to the optician usually results in stronger glasses, or if you’re lucky, a date to return in 12 months for our next check-up.

However, it could pick up on a more serious underlying problem and possibly save your life.

That’s what happened when 13-year-old Becky Crossthwaite started complaining of headaches. Her mother, Kirsty, thought that she needed stronger glasses. But her optician diagnosed a brain tumour - despite having shown no symptoms in a previous examination just four months before.

“The doctors told us that if optometrist Kiran Lally hadn’t spotted the signs of the fluid when she did, then Becky would have died,” said Kirsty.

The Eye Care Trust charity estimates that one in five children have an undetected problem with their vision.

According to national screening guidelines, all schoolchildren aged four and five should be offered a vision test.

However, a report by the College of Optometrists found that fewer than a third of local authorities are providing them.

Rona Craig, the manager at the Hunslet Carr Vision Centre where Becky Crossthwaite was diagnosed, says screening isn’t sufficient.

“While it is important that children get their vision tested, they also need to have their eye health checked regularly,” she says.

“There needs to be greater awareness, through schools or GPs, to inform parents that eye tests are free and are vital.

If your child needs glasses, then the NHS provides a voucher towards the costs – so it is hard to understand why they don’t bring them to get them checked out.”

Eye Facts

One in five children could be suffering from an undetected problem with their vision, according to the charity The Eye Care Trust.

All children should be offered screening at school aged four and five.

Eye tests are free to all children under the age of 16.

Children don’t have to be able to read to have an eye test.

If problems such as a lazy eye are detected before a child is seven, then they can normally be corrected with the right treatment.

For more information visit http://lookafteryoureyes.org/eye-care/children

This week is National Eye Health Week. Visit visionmatters.org.uk