Crawley glaucoma patient supports charity's eye test appeal

A Crawley man is backing a national campaign by the International Glaucoma Association urging people to get their eyes tested.

Friday, 3rd June 2016, 12:00 pm
Peter Bower who has glaucoma is supporting a campaign by the International Glaucoma Association urging people to get their eyes tested - picture submitted by Peter

For this year’s National Glaucoma Awareness Week running from June 6-12, Peter Bower from Langley Green is calling on people to get checked early, particularly if they have close relatives with the condition.

Peter, 68, who has surgery on his right eye for glaucoma, said: “The condition has not stopped me from living a normal life and being active and being able to drive, but it is always in the back of my mind. I have glaucoma in my right eye, which has only about 30% of normal vision and I have ocular hypertension in my left eye.

“I have to take care going down steps owing to the way glaucoma has affected my sight.”

Parents, children, brothers or sisters are up to four times more likely to develop glaucoma, when compared to people with no family history of glaucoma. There are an estimated 600,000 people in the UK living with glaucoma, but half are undiagnosed. It is the most common cause of preventable blindness, yet many people are unaware it has no symptoms in the early stages.

Peter said: “My father developed glaucoma in his later years. I have two daughters in their 40s who are both ok, but I have badgered them into having regular eye tests. What I would say to anyone with glaucoma in the family is don’t delay – go and get an eye test.”

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Russell Young CEO of the IGA comments: “Our research has shown that one in three people (32 per cent)[i] diagnosed with glaucoma did not know glaucoma can be inherited. This is worrying given the increased risk that relatives have of developing the condition. When it comes to the general public, awareness of the inherited link is significantly lower, with only 49 per cent[ii] being aware of the link with family history.”

Continues Russell: “We regularly hear from people who have irretrievably lost their sight to glaucoma, as they haven’t had regular eye health checks. People are often angry and upset, to know that a quick and regular visit to their high street optometrist would have detected the condition. It is critical that family members have regular eye health checks throughout life, at least every two years, and more regularly if advised by a health professional. The earlier treatment starts the more likely that someone will retain useful sight for life.”

The IGA believes that everyone should have regular eye health checks, at least every two years and works with optometrists, eye clinic staff, voluntary groups and people across the country to help prevent sight loss unnecessarily. For people with a family history of glaucoma, eye checks are free in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for those aged over 40, and free in Scotland regardless of age.