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Urgent referrals for strabismus lagging behind leukocoria

The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust has released findings to mark Childhood Cancer Awareness Month 2019

The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) has found that children with retinoblastoma (Rb) who present with leukocoria are two and a half times more likely to get an urgent referral than children who present with strabismus.

Chief executive of the CHECT, Patrick Tonks, said: “We understand that squints are common among this young age group and this is perhaps a factor behind these figures. We therefore urge any healthcare practitioners, including optometrists, presented with a child with a new onset of strabismus to undertake careful examination to rule out serious underlying conditions such as retinoblastoma.”

CHECT gathered data from parents of 140 children in the UK who were diagnosed with Rb after presenting to a healthcare professional with one symptom between 2012 and 2018. Overall, CHECT gathered figures from the parents of 243 children.

Of the children who presented with one symptom, 58% of those who presented with leukocoria received an urgent referral, compared to 21% of those who presented with strabismus.

The findings also showed that 19% of children presenting with leukocoria waited over two months for a referral, with 7% waiting over six months. By comparison, 42% of children who presented with strabismus waited over two months for a referral, with 12% waiting over six months.

Over the last seven years, around 70% of children with Rb have leukocoria as a symptom while 33% present with strabismus.

“More than half of all children diagnosed with Rb lose an eye to save their life. It is therefore crucial that children exhibiting symptoms are examined and, where appropriate, referred as quickly as possible,” Mr Tonks added.

The findings have been released by the CHECT to mark Childhood Cancer Awareness Month 2019, which runs throughout September.

CHECT highlighted that optometrists looking for more information on Rb should visit its website.

For further information of children’s eye health, visit the AOP’s patient leaflets page.