Kathy kept a very close watch on her two boys, always looking for signs of any visual issues. Kathy had been treated when she was five years old for an astigmatism that led to amblyopia. She wore glasses, and with patching therapy, was able to improve her vision. She knew these issues could develop in her boys as well, as there is a genetic tendency. Her three year old son Nixon showed no signs of vision loss. He was a very active, curious and precocious preschooler.
It wasn’t until his preschool vision screening that she was alerted that something was not quite right. Kathy happily agreed to the optional screening test. Nixon was scanned with the “Welch-Allyn Spot Vision Screener”. She was told this is a handheld device that can detect a number of visual issues in just seconds. And that is all it took…. seconds. The device detected myopia (nearsightedness) in Nixon’s left eye.
Kathy immediately scheduled an exam with a Pediatric Ophthalmologist. Over the next several days and weeks while she waited for this appointment, Kathy noticed a new alarming sign. Nixon was exhibiting a Glow in his flash photos. Kathy knew that this Glow (leukocoria) could mean there was something more going on than myopia. She was concerned that Nixon could have a more serious condition such as Coats’ Disease or Retinoblastoma. She educated herself on the possibilities, but remained focused on finding a diagnosis.
Finally Nixon’s appointment day came, and he was thoroughly examined by the ophthalmologist. The doctor confirmed the Myopia diagnosis, but in both eyes, along with astigmatism. An astigmatism is when there is a deviation from the normal spherical curvature of the eye’s lens. This astigmatism was causing Nixon’s left eye not to work properly, also known as Refractive Amblyopia. The combination of myopia and astigmatism was the reason she was seeing what appeared to be a Glow in his photos.
Kathy was very comfortable with this diagnosis. Nixon was fitted for eyeglasses and loves wearing them since they help him to see much better. Nixon will have regular visits to see if the glasses help improve his amblyopia. It is possible he may start a patching regimen in the future to strengthen his left eye and increase his vision.
Kathy is grateful that the preschool screeners were able to detect Nixon’s issue. Left untreated, amblyopia can lead to permanent vision loss. She is also very grateful that the Glow she noticed was not a sign of a more serious condition. She hopes by sharing her story, other parents will not only agree to have their child’s vision screened but that they will also keep an eye out for the Glow in flash photos. She knows that it took more than just her diligent watch to determine her son’s vision needs.