Grantham schoolboy’s sight is saved after test reveals disease

Jane Macnaughton with son Alex and Simmons Owner James Alexander.
Jane Macnaughton with son Alex and Simmons Owner James Alexander.
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A Grantham schoolboy has had his sight saved following a regular eye test.

The test revealed that King’s School pupil Alex Macnaughton, 13, had juvenile arthritis.

His mother, Jane is now urging parents to ensure their children have regular eye examinations. When Jane, an optometrist at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, took Alex for his regular eye test he had no symptoms, was in no pain and experienced no irritation.

But a routine eye test at Simmons Optometrists in Oakham revealed iritis, an inflammation in his eye, which had it been undetected could have left him blind in one eye. The cause of the iritis has since been confirmed as Juvenile Arthritis. It was the use of a slit lamp, a microscope used to examine the front of the eye, that showed the iritis and without which a timely diagnosis would not have been possible.

Optometrist James Alexander, who owns the Simmons practice, said: “Figures from Arthritis Research UK reveal that 15,000 children under the age of 16 in the UK have Juvenile Arthritis which is associated with iritis.

“As well as arthritis eye tests can also reveal diabetes, high blood pressure, cardio vascular problems and tumors. Regular eye check-ups are important not just for our eye health but to monitor our overall health. “

When Alex was told his sight was under threat he immediately went to casualty where he was given steroid eye drops to control the inflammation. He now visits Leicester Royal Infirmary every couple of months and takes medication for his arthritis.

Jane, who lives near Melton, said: “There is no doubt that had we put off this eye examination longer than his regular check he could have developed long-term complications that could have led to loss of sight in that eye.

“ Iritis is not something that is caught from other children, like conjunctivitis, and is often associated with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA). He had experienced inexplicable knee pain and swelling for a number of years which after inconclusive tests was put down to growing pains, we had no idea this could be arthritis. My gratitude goes to the specialist care and attention given to us at Simmons Optometrists, who picked up such an unusual eye condition at an early stage. We have had an extremely lucky escape and I just want parents out there to be aware that eye examinations for children are free and the importance of their sight, priceless.”

Alex, a pupil at The King’s School, Grantham, now regularly sees a paediatric rheumatologist and takes anti- inflammatory drugs to manage his arthritis.”

Alex added: “I had no idea about the condition. I wasn’t in any pain or discomfort. I just thought I was going for a regular check-up. It’s been annoying having to go to so many hospital appointments but I’m on the right medication now so when my knee swells I know what it is.”

Children can have a free NHS sight test, and it is recommended they have their first test by the age of three.