Detecting eye conditions in children at an earlier stage

The importance of having children’s eyesight tested early cannot be overstated, as an estimated one in five children in the UK have undetected eye problems. In some cases, hidden eye disorders can become more serious and even turn into life-threatening conditions. With young children, such problems often remain unnoticed until they cause a notable decline in their learning abilities.


Research shows that less than one in three parents in the UK has ever had their child’s eyes tested. Even when tests are conducted, they are often not as in-depth as a standard eye test and can miss important signals. All babies in the UK have their eyes checked at birth and then six weeks later by a doctor. Unfortunately, later on most schools no longer have mandatory eye tests and only 60% provide pupils with an eye examination. Meanwhile, children’s eyes are fully developed by the time they are eight years old and any sight defects undetected after that are largely irreversible.


By offering a fun and child-friendly eye test for free, GrandVision’s UK business, Vision Express, plays a vital role in providing accessible optical healthcare advice. The tests are carried out by a professional optometrist and cover issues that are not included in school eye checks. Vision Express also partners with the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT), a charity dedicated to providing support to children and their families affected by Retinoblastoma. Around 50 to 60 cases of Retinoblastoma are diagnosed each year and while 98% of those diagnosed will survive, they may face having an eye removed or have lasting vision impairment issues. Vision Express was the first optician in the UK to roll out a protocol to ensure a quick and effective referral if Retinoblastoma is suspected.


“The team at Vision Express in the UK continues to be a very special partner for the CHECT. Over the last seven years they have played an invaluable role in helping to raise awareness of retinoblastoma, the most common malignant cancer of the eye in children, and which is almost exclusively found in young children. Through working with us to develop and implement an optician’s protocol for suspected cases of retinoblastoma and developing an e-learning module to ensure that all frontline staff are better equipped to detect eye cancer, they are helping to eliminate possible delays in diagnosis. This, in turn, can lead to more treatment options and better outcomes for children.


Their support across the whole organization, from the head office to the stores, has been very special. In addition, their commitment to fundraising through activities such as the 200 mile Ride4Sight cycling event has allowed us to make a significant difference to the lives of families affected by this devastating cancer. “ says Patrick Tonks, Chief Executive of the CHECT.


Three-year-old Eliza Thomas is one of the many examples of Vision Express playing an important role in a child’s life. Eliza was discovered to have Retinoblastoma, a silent form of cancer in her eye, after her mother took her for an eye test at a Vision Express store in London in late 2015.


“Eliza was losing her sight and we had no idea because she just adapted to it. There was no obvious sign that anything was wrong with her,” says her mother April Thomas. “But when the optometrist examined her she saw what looked like a tumor growing in her eye and told us to take her to the hospital immediately.”


Eliza had to undergo life-saving surgery to have her eye and the tumor removed. “I was absolutely devastated – nobody thinks it will ever happen to their child,” says April. “I was always being told that Eliza had the most beautiful eyes and so for the cancer to have affected that part of her was absolutely devastating. But at the same time, I also felt relief and hope that this operation would get rid of the cancer and save Eliza.”


Despite everything she’s been through, Eliza is today a happy little girl who loves going to the nursery and playing with her brother and cousins.