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EVENING CHRONICLE ARTICLE :
Corbridge woman's sight saved after visit to Ouseburn opticians

Specialist at Sunderland Eye Infirmary is urging people to get their eyes tested as part of National Glaucoma Week running this week

 
Optician Keith Little with Ros Scott Bell
Optician Keith Little with Ros Scott Bell

Thousands of people across the North East are at risk of going blind after failing to attend regular eye check ups.

It is estimated that two per cent of the region’s population who are over the age of 40 will be suffering from glaucoma - but only half will have been diagnosed.

Today, in National Glaucoma Week, a leading consultant from Sunderland Eye Infirmary urged people to attend regular opticians’ appointments in a bid to prevent the condition reaching an advanced level.

Consultant optometrist Scott Fraser said: “There will be thousands of people out there who have this but don’t know it.

“The problem with the condition is that there are no real symptoms. The best way to detect it is through attending regular check up at your opticians.”

Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye conditions which affect the optic nerve and disturb the peripheral vision.

Ros Scott Bell, 44, was one of the lucky ones after attending her opticians in Newcastle.

 

Optician Keith Little with Ros Scott Bell
Optician Keith Little with Ros Scott Bell

 

Ms Scott-Bell, of Corbridge, Northumberland, had been visiting the Big Optician surgery in Ouseburn when the condition was initially picked up.

The optometrist performed retinal photography, standard in all eye examinations, and he detected some slight damage to the optic nerve which had been caused by a build-up of pressure within the eye. This is one of the early signs of glaucoma but without an eye test Ms Scott-Bellmay have been unaware of it for years, until it was too late.

She was immediately sent to the RVI in Newcastle for further tests, where specific eye drops were prescribed to keep the problem at bay, and she has suffered no further problems.

Ms Scott Bell said: “I know a lot of people think eye tests are unnecessary if you’re not having any problems, but in my case it was a God-send.

“I was also lucky he was able to detect the tiniest area of damage. I realised I was in a high risk category only afterwards when I told my father that I had glaucoma and he told me he had it too, because apparently there’s a strong genetic link.

“So I would urge everyone to ask their relatives about glaucoma and if you find out there’s a genetic tendency, then book yourself an eye test quickly.”

Mr Fraser said those over the age of 40 were at greater risk of the condition.

He added: “There are a number of treatments available and most people will be prescribed drops which should be sufficient to deal with the situation. In some cases laser treatments are given , while in a small number, an operation is required.”

All routine eye tests should screen for glaucoma.

Mr Fraser, who specialises in the condition, added: “If I could get one message out there it would be to make sure people have regular check ups.”

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a condition which can affect the sight, usually due to build up of pressure within the eye.

The condition often affects both eyes, usually to varying degrees. One eye may develop glaucoma quicker than the other.

The eyeball contains a fluid called aqueous humour which is constantly produced by the eye, with any excess drained though tubes.

Glaucoma develops when the fluid cannot drain properly and pressure builds up, known as the intraocular pressure.

This can damage the optic nerve and the nerve fibres from the retina.

Early diagnosis is important because any damage to the eyes cannot be reversed. Treatment aims to control the condition and minimise future damage.

If left untreated, glaucoma can cause visual impairment. But if it’s diagnosed and treated early enough, further damage to vision can be prevented.

You are entitled to a free NHS eye test if you are over 40 years old and have a first-degree relative - mother, father, sister or brother - with glaucoma.

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