Three years ago, when she was just 39, Hayley Mason  — a family support practitioner for a children’s hospice — was diagnosed with glaucoma. It was a shock. Hayley had thought it was a condition that only affected older people. “I’d had headaches,” she says, “and my job can be stressful so I put it down to that. Then it felt as though I had a bit of grit in my eye and it wouldn’t go away, so I went to see an optometrist.” 

 

Simple eye test helps diagnose Glaucoma

Thank goodness she did. When the optometrist did a ‘puff ‘test to check her eye-pressure, the results were high. Hayley was referred to the eye clinic at her hospital where she underwent a thorough eye examination and was immediately diagnosed with glaucoma in both eyes. In its advanced stages, glaucoma — the name given to a group of eye conditions in which the optic nerve is damaged — can lead to blindness.

There are often no early symptoms of glaucoma but the first area to be affected is the peripheral vision. Not just for the old and fragile

 

The risks of glaucoma

"There are many different types of glaucoma and it is not a condition involving a single gene so it is surprising us all the time — and we still have a lot to understand.” 

“The incidence is one to two per cent over the age of 40 and increases with age,” says Russell Young, CEO of the International Glaucoma Association (IGA), “so Hayley was not that far out of the expected age range and ‘lucky’ to be diagnosed and treated early.

"There are many different types of glaucoma and it is not a condition involving a single gene so it is surprising us all the time — and we still have a lot to understand.”

What is clear is that you have at least a four times in- creased risk of developing glaucoma if you are African Caribbean or have a close blood relative with the condition. Other people with an increased risk include diabetics.

 

Life goes on for Hayley 

Young stresses that early diagnosis is vital before any damage to the optic nerve has taken place and that, currently, lost sight cannot be retrieved.

“We can only stop the loss progressing,” he says, “and in the early stages it can only be diagnosed via a thorough eye test.”

The equipment to detect glaucoma is improving all the time and the condition is commonly treated with eye drops. Because she was diagnosed by an optometrist early, Hayley’s life carries on as before. She has to be aware that she has lost some peripheral vision; plus she must take driving re-tests every three years. For treatment she takes drops twice a day. “Otherwise,” she says, “I can carry on with life as normal.”