Eye test saves young Swords girl’s sight

by Sylvia Pownall
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A VISIT to a Swords optician proved to be a life-saving experience for nine-year-old Nikola Plata.
Her dad, Liam, is now highlighting the importance of regular eye tests for health as well as sight after her optometrist discovered a malignant tumour in the retina during a routine exam.
Just before Christmas 2013, Nikola’s parents noticed a strange shine in her right eye, so they took their daughter to Specsavers Swords.
Nikola, who was just six at the time, was examined by optometrist Sean Douglas who was shocked by what he saw in her eye – a white reflex in the pupil and a huge growth in the eye.
Sean advised Liam and Liga to take their daughter straight away to Temple Street Hospital where she was seen by a paediatric eye surgery specialist.
Professor Michael O’Keefe diagnosed her with unilateral retinoblastoma – a rare condition, mainly affecting young children, that causes a malignant tumour to form in the retina.
At first it was feared she would lose her eye, but Liam and Liga pleaded for an alternative solution and eventually a team of Swiss specialists agreed to treat her.
The family made more than 20 visits to Switzerland for chemotherapy, and Nikola has been cancer-free for two years.
Liam is very grateful that his daughter’s condition was caught in time.
He said: “We were just blessed we went in to Specsavers when we did and that Sean was available. We were told that if we had waited one more week, it would have been too late to save the eye.
“I cannot highlight enough the importance of regular eye tests and early intervention.
“If you have any concerns about your eyesight, I would encourage you to make an appointment with your local optician.”
Sean Douglas is also keen to emphasise the importance of eye examinations for everyone.
He said: “Up to 75% of blindness and vision loss can be avoided when treated early, which is why we encourage people to get their eyes tested regularly.
“As well as detecting sight problems and eye diseases, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration, the health of your eyes can tell a lot about your overall health.
“Eye tests can reveal whether you are suffering from a number of serious health conditions that are essentially silent and potentially fatal if not discovered early enough.”
Because retinoblastoma mostly affects infants and small children, it is often discovered when a parent or optician notices that a child’s eye looks unusual.
Signs you may notice include.
• A white colour in the pupil when light is shone in the eye, such as when taking a flash photograph,
• Eyes that appear to be looking in different directions,
• Eye redness, or
• Eye swelling.
If you notice any of the above symptoms or any changes to your child’s eye that concern you, make an appointment with your child’s doctor.

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