She thought her daughter just needed glasses, but something much more serious was going on

Sara Saldana's vision issues lead to tumor discovery

The mother of a little girl who was having trouble seeing in class thought her daughter just needed glasses, but experts learned something much more serious was happening.

The initial symptoms Sara Saldana was experiencing weren't alarming to eye doctors.

She complained that she couldn't read the board at school, so her mother took her for an eye exam. Sara was given a pair of mild prescription glasses, and for a while, all seemed fine.

"Then, all of a sudden, we noticed she would say, 'Oh, I have a headache,' or, 'I think we need to go back to the doctor. I think I need stronger glasses,'" her mother, Nicole Saldana, said.

Sara got emotional during a routine school eye examination, and her teacher got concerned.

"The teacher said: 'Look, she's panicking. She's not cooperating. She's acting like she can't see anything.' So the teacher is actually the one who called me up and said, you know, 'Something's wrong,'" Saldana said.

Sara was diagnosed with an optic nerve glioma -- a type of tumor that forms in or around the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. This type of tumor most commonly occurs in children under the age of 10, and most are diagnosed in children ages 5 and younger.

"For an unexplained reason, there's an uncontrolled proliferation, a benign proliferation of tissues of the optic nerve, rendering it ineffective in conducting images," Saldana said.

The tumor can often be treated with chemotherapy or radiation. In Sara's case, ophthalmologist Dr. David Tse said surgery was necessary.

"That's where the urgency comes in to interrupt that tumor extension to the brain," Tse said.

Although Sara has permanently lost vision in her left eye, her mother is glad it wasn't worse.

"Extremely grateful," Saldana said. "Especially to her teacher because if her teacher had not brought it to my attention, like, 'Your daughter is fearful she can't see,' I don't know if she would be able to see out of both eyes."

Symptoms of an optic nerve glioma can include vision changes or double vision, balance problems, headaches, involuntary eye movements and even nausea and vomiting.

If your child experiences any changes in their vision or balance, it's important to get them checked out as soon as possible. There is a variety of potential causes, and some of them are time-sensitive.

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