Specsavers Lower Hutt Optom discovers swollen optic nerve in 13-year-old - referral for MRI reveals build-up of brain fluid.

When local school boy Peter White-Douglas began complaining to his mum Jayne about being unable to see the school whiteboard, she initially thought he was making up excuses to wear glasses because his friend had recently started wearing them. But she thought she may as well take him along to the optometrist.

“I said to him ‘The eye exam is free so we may as well go’’, Jayne says, referring to Specsavers Kids go Free Program.

But when Specsavers Optometrist and co-owner Sanje Munathanthiri examined Peter’s eyes, he found cause for concern. Peter had a swollen optic nerve, which was causing his vision to blur, and is often a sign of a serious health problem.

‘I performed Digital Retinal Photography on Peter’s eyes and as soon as I found the swollen optic nerve I referred him urgently to Wellington Hospital’, says Sanje.

An MRI was performed on Peter’s brain and Jayne was told they would be given the results of the scan after two weeks. But just half an hour after returning to work, Jayne received a phone call delivering the devastating news that Peter had a brain tumour, which was causing build-up of fluid in his brain. Such a diagnosis could prove fatal if not treated early enough and so Peter was told he would need to be operated on as soon as possible. The fluid was causing swelling in his optic nerve, which was blurring his vision, and was also causing him headaches. They were told the results on the Thursday and Peter was booked in for surgery the following Monday. His operation to drain the excess fluid in his brain was thankfully successful and a follow up eye exam by Sanje revealed the swelling in Peter’s optic nerve has completely gone down.

Peter continues to be monitored for further treatment for the condition and has an appointment booked in with a neurosurgeon at Wellington Hospital in the coming weeks.

Jayne says ‘I had no idea that eye tests could pick up these sorts of things. I’m just grateful I decided to take him for the eye test’.

Peter had previously been for a routine eye test and the eye exam revealed healthy eyes.

Sanje stresses the importance of regular eye checks for children, saying ‘This case just goes to show how fast an issue can arise.’

‘We always encourage parents to take their children in for an eye exam as soon as they or themselves notice any worrying symptoms, such as Peter did. It’s concerning that one in two children between 1 and 16 have never had an eye exam. I commend Jayne for bringing Peter in for regular testing.’

Peter’s swollen optic nerve was picked up by Digital Retinal Photography (DRP), which is performed as part of every standard eye exam. It produces a high-resolution image of the retina, optic nerve and blood vessels and provides insights into other health issues including blood pressure and diabetes on top of sight-related conditions.

Jayne is relieved that Peter appears to be in good spirits following the brain surgery and is resolved to always take Peter for regular eye checks, adding ‘I will forever be grateful to Sanje and the amazing team at Specsavers Lower Hutt.’