SARASOTA – When a young Atlanta girl had excruciating headaches, her mother had no idea that an eye exam would not just solve the problem, but save her life.


Ruby Mosqueda started getting these headaches when she was eight years old.


“She would wake up screaming, crying, and sometimes she would even through tantrums and I couldn’t tell what was wrong with her,” Ruby’s mother, Maria Garcia, said.


Garcia desperately needed answers.


“We took her to the E.R.,” she said. “We were referred to specialists, and no one could tell us what was really going on.”


She then took Ruby to their family optometrist, who dilated her eyes.


“That led to the answer – that her optic nerve was very swollen due to pressure, and that was the cause of a brain tumor,” Garcia said.


The tumor had been growing in her brain for a couple of years.


“When we look in the inside of a patient’s eye, we can actually see their arteries and veins, their blood vessels,” O.D. Andrea Thau said. “So we’re able to uncover systemic health problems, like blood pressure and diabetes.”


Thau says comprehensive eye exams are what allow doctors to find these problems.


“A comprehensive eye exam checks more than just clarity of sight,” Thau said. “It checks focusing, tracking, eye coordination and visual processing, which helps the child perform better.”


Thau said you can’t rely on simple vision screenings at your child’s school or at the pediatrician’s office.


“Vision screenings are flawed,” Thau said. “They miss many problems, and many children never get the followup care they need.”


Now, with one in four children having a vision problem, the guidelines for exams have changed.


Children should have their eyes fully examined once in their first year of life, a second time between ages three and five, and once each school year thereafter.


“..to ensure that we can ensure that their visual system is developing normally,” Thau said.


“In our case it saved Ruby’s life, and it could save other people’s lives,” Garcia said.


She is still thankful for that trip to the optometrist that led to a heartbreaking discovery.


“I can’t imagine what would’ve happened had we not gone to the optometrist that day,” Garcia said.


Now, Ruby is doing great.


“She’s starting third grade this year, and she’s very excited, and so are we,” Garcia said. “We’re just gonna continue to take her to the optometrist.”