A Stafford grandmother who has successfully battled to overcome one of the most common causes of blindness has emphasised the need to have regular eye checks as part of World Glaucoma Day.
Cynthia Powell’s sight was only saved by the quick actions of her Stafford optician who spotted the symptoms of her chronic glaucoma at her yearly eye test.
Now Mincher-Lockett Opticians, in Stafford Street, is taking part in the international glaucoma awareness day on Friday, March 12, by offering a free test which can spot a key symptom of the disease.
“My experience demonstrates how dangerous glaucoma can be, I could have lost my sight permanently and I couldn’t tell I had it, which just shows the importance of getting your eyes tested regularly,” said Mrs Powell, 65, from Littleworth.
About 500,000 people in Englandand Wales have glaucoma which causes damage to the optic nerve resulting in progressive and irreversible loss of sight and finally blindness.
Nicknamed ‘the sneak thief of sight’, because it has no noticeable symptoms, it is estimated that half of sufferers do not realise they have the condition.
The third annual World Glaucoma Day aims to encourage more people to get their eyes tested regularly, early diagnosis means eyesight loss can be prevented. People aged 40 and above are particularly at risk of getting the disease.
The raised pressure in Mrs Powell’s eye, a common indicator of glaucoma, was noticeably above the normal level and was spotted immediately during her annual check-up at Mincher-Lockett Opticians in 2005.
Her mother, Mary, had also suffered from the condition, so Mrs Powell had been identified as being at a higher risk of getting the condition and was having more regular eye tests than is usual.
After her eye test at Mincher-Lockett, Mrs Powell was treated by a specialist ophthalmologist at Stafford Hospital, she now uses eye drops to control the glaucoma which have prevented any loss of vision.
“It was terrifying realising that suddenly my eyesight was at risk, and I hadn’t even known anything was wrong. If I hadn’t gone along to the optician when I did I could easily have lost some of my vision which I couldn’t have got back,” said the retired fire service cook.
“The treatment I got at Mincher-Lockett and at the hospital was first class, they spotted it straight away and I got the right treatment.
“I knew I was at risk but I still got glaucoma even though I was being checked regularly, which just shows how important it is for people who think their eyesight is fine to get it tested.
“The dangerous thing about glaucoma is that there are no symptoms so you don’t know you’ve got it until you start losing your sight and that loss in permanent.
“It is tempting when we get a reminder from the optician to think there’s no need to have an eye test but for glaucoma you can’t ignore that reminder you do need to book an opticians appointment,” she warned.
Jan Goodwin, the optician at Mincher-Lockett Opticians, said: “Simple tests can easily spot the symptoms of glaucoma so it can be stopped in its tracks, so it’s so important to have regular eye tests."