Every year in UK around 50 children are diagnosed with an eye cancer called retinoblastoma. In developing countries children usually will die of this cruel disease as it spreads along the optic nerve to the brain when treatment is delayed or not available. Thankfully here there are treatments are available and although many of the children will lose their eye or their eyesight due to the cancer, if it is diagnosed quickly they will go on to lead perfectly normal fulfilling lives and may retain their eyesight.
Fast diagnosis is the key so if you (or anyone you know) suspect a problem with your child’s eyes, even if they are a tiny baby or a toddler, it is important to get them checked quickly. Children with eye cancer will appear to be perfectly fit and well and appear to have normal eyesight– the only sign may be subtle changes in one of their eyes. Most commonly this is either a new squint (turn) in the eye, or a milky or unusual appearance to the pupil (black part in the centre) of the eye. Less commonly the eye could be persistently sore or red or swollen.
The people best placed to check for problems is the opticians – as we have special equipment not available at a GP surgery and we are trained to examine children of all ages. Drops may used to get a good look inside the eye. You can phone your local opticians to make an appointment or in many areas you can call the urgent eyecare service on 0300 3034922 to get an appointment within a few days.