Spotting glaucoma early with eye checks
Glaucoma David Hurst, 27, was diagnosed with glaucoma, a condition where the optic nerve suffers damage from pressure building up behind the eye. A delayed eye check makes him wonder if this could have been avoided.
For a year or so, David Hurst had noticed an odd corona around headlights on the motorway as he drove home to Sussex from London each evening. He knew he ought to go to the opticians for an eye test or mention it to his doctor but, as he says, “When you’re busy working you put things off and tell yourself you’re far too busy to take time off for a eye check-up”.
When he did eventually book an appointment with his optician, glaucoma was not mentioned but instead the problem was assumed to be hard contact lenses.
Losing sight of it all
After a couple of months trying out soft contact lenses led to no improvement, a follow-up trip to the opticians revealed it might be glaucoma. The suspicion was soon conﬁrmed at the Brighton Eye hospital.
“To be honest, it didn’t really impact my life at ﬁrst, I just took the eye drops I was given and made sure I kept to regular appointments with the specialists,” he says. “The real impact happened when I lost the sight in one eye. I’d switched jobs to running a farm and it made routine tasks, like bailing hay, parking a car or pouring a glass of wine really difficult.
‘A fraction too narrow’
Nevertheless, life went on pretty much as normal until David needed to ﬁnd his driving licence. When it appeared to be lost, he applied for a new one and ﬁlled in the forms very honestly. That led to the DVLA asking for a routine eye check before it could reissue a licence. However, the check revealed the ﬁeld of vision in his good eye was a fraction too narrow and he could no longer hold a licence.
'Losing my licence was the hard part'
“Losing my licence was the real life-changing development,” he says. “I sought some second opinions to see if it was worth challenging but apparently my ﬁeld of vision was just one per cent too narrow, it was a real borderline case. “You never think about driving until you can’t. I lived a mile away from a bus stop in rural West Sussex up a tiny country lane, so it was a mile walk to get a bus that only went every hour or so.
The sooner you get diagnosed, the sooner you can get the eye drops that will stop the condition getting worse.
“So I ended up moving to a busier town where I’d have shops around me and a railway station as well as buses. The diagnosis of glaucoma itself didn’t really impact my life and neither did losing sight in one eye, it was losing my driving licence which made all the difference.”
The question that has dogged David for nearly 20 years is what would have happened had he sought earlier treatment. Having unwittingly ignored an early sign of glaucoma, he is now a self-confessed ‘nag’ when it comes to advising others to get regular eye checks.
“There’s not a great deal they can do with glaucoma other than the drops, which halt or slow down its progression,” he says. “So, I warn people that they could have glaucoma and not be aware of it and so they should always get their eyes tested. The sooner you get diagnosed, the sooner you can get the eye drops that will stop the condition getting worse.”