Mother’s keen eye helps spot the problem plaguing teenager

Jack Bradshaw, from St Ives, undergoing an eye test.

Jack Bradshaw, from St Ives, undergoing an eye test. - Credit: Archant

A St Ives teenager plagued by debilitating migraines is being successfully treated for a sight condition thanks to a meticulous test and his mum’s eye for photography.

Jane Bradshaw had been concerned about the cause of son Jack’s migraines since he first started having problems, aged 11.

The youngster, now 16, experienced episodes every few weeks, ranging from mild to severe, often leaving him bedridden and unable to go to school for days.

Worried that the migraines were triggered by squinting, Jane, 45, took Jack along to the family’s local optician to check his sight in 2014.

She said: “Migraines run in our family so we’ve always taken Jack for regular eye tests but I wasn’t satisfied with the basic service on that occasion.

“Soon after, Jack started having hideous migraines more regularly so I decided to take him to Vision Express for a more thorough consultation.”

In December 2015, the family visited the Vision Express store, in Cambridge.

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Jane, a neuro nurse consultant, added: “I was immediately impressed with the service. Jack was 15 at the time, and the optometrist spoke to him like an adult, thoroughly explaining everything from start to finish.

“Due to the nature of my role, I was particularly impressed that digital retinal photography was included in the eye test and mentioned my fascination to the optometrist, who invited me to look at the images.

“We were examining them together when suddenly the optometrist and I looked at each other and he asked ‘do you see that?’. My heart dropped as I replied, yes.”

The retinal photography revealed an anomaly on Jack’s optic nerve. Jane’s professional experience automatically sent her mind racing, knowing there could be something sinister lurking behind her son’s eye.

Jane said: “My heart was beating out of my chest thinking it could be a tumour or an aneurism, especially as he’d had so many recent bad migraines but I kept calm for Jack’s sake.

“It was very uncomfortable, I didn’t know what to say and didn’t want to worry him. He asked what that matter was, but we told him nothing and the optometrist casually asked him to go and choose some new frames.

“Once Jack had left, my husband joined us to discuss what the images could potentially mean. The optometrist reassured us the migraines were probably a red herring and advised that Jack needed an urgent referral to a specialist neuro ophthalmologist. I had a bit of a wobble but felt reassured by the optometrist.”

Vision Express made Jack a referral to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, where he was diagnosed with drusen in both eyes a couple of days later.

Made up of lipids, a type of fatty protein, drusen are tiny yellow or white deposits in the Bruchs membrane – a layer of the retina. Drusen cannot be treated or cured, and are the most common early sign of age-related macular degeneration.

Jane said: “The consultant explained that this meant Jack had a fault with his eyes’ ability to clear debris, which will later form a thickening near the optic nerve and affect his peripheral vision. Even more concerning, his right eye was worse and had haemorrhaged around one of the drusen.

“We went back two weeks later and were relieved to find that the haemorrhage had dispersed. The consultant was amazing and gave us the reassurance that we could take Jack straight in if he started having any problems.”

While Jack currently has no issues with sight, it is expected to deteriorate by the time he is 30. Vision Express is closely monitoring the teenager’s eye health with eye tests every six months.

Jane added: “There’s no way of knowing how and when Jack’s sight will be affected but his condition won’t stop him living a normal life, whether that’s learning to drive or using a computer.

“Interestingly, the consultant said that his visual field results were good and this was likely to be due to him playing computer games.”

Now in his final year of school studying for his GCSEs, with plans to further his education focused on the sciences, Jane says Jack is much happier in himself.

She said: “Jack has been migraine-free for seven months which is just fantastic. We’re incredibly grateful to Vision Express for the quick response and the thorough approach the whole team takes to eye health. We completely trust them.”