This National Eye Health Week (21st – 27th September), a Chester woman whose sight was saved by an eye test has urged local people to take action to look after their vision and eye health.

48-year-old Claire Shaw was shocked to discover last year that her eyes’ sensitivity to light was an indication of a serious problem, which could have cost her her vision.

An eye test at Specsavers Chester revealed that Claire, who thought she was suffering with hayfever or conjunctivitis, actually had a detached retina in her right eye and a tear in her left retina.

A shadow in her vision and difficulty with bright lights
Claire said: ‘I had been struggling with bright lights, particularly at night, and often had a shadow in the corner of my eye. If I was driving at night and a car approached from around a corner with its lights on I would be blinded for a moment. The symptoms came on gradually until the point that I decided to do something about it.

‘I had an eye test elsewhere and was told I had conjunctivitis. I was tempted to leave it at that, despite the problem not clearing, but my neighbour persuaded me that I should go to Specsavers.’

Claire was seen at Specsavers by optician Katriona Holding. ‘I took retinal photographs as a routine part of her pre-screening and was immediately able to see that there was a problem with the retina in her right eye – it did prove on further examination to be detached.

‘We organised an emergency appointment at hospital’
‘This means that the retina had peeled away from the back of her eye like wet wallpaper peeling off a wall.  As the retina comes off it is no longer in contact with its blood supply and can rapidly die off. Once this sensitive retinal tissue has been damaged the sight will be permanently lost in this area. Obviously, because of this, time was of the essence for Claire and we were able to arrange an emergency appointment for her at the hospital that day.’

With family arriving imminently at her house for her father’s 80th birthday celebrations, Claire said that the timing was far from ideal. ‘We’d organised all sorts – a hog roast, a tiki bar, family arriving from Australia and the USA. We were really pushing the boat out for my dad, so I was completely taken aback at the seriousness of the situation with my eyes. Also, my husband was in Azerbaijan as he works on oil rigs with BP, so I was well and truly stumped.

‘Katriona was amazingly calm and reassuring though, organising for me to be seen straight away at hospital. I picked up my two daughters from school and went there immediately. I am so glad that I did. My eyes were incredibly vulnerable and there was a very real chance that I could have lost sight in my right eye at any time.’

Very thankful and lucky
Claire needed a series of procedures after the problem was found, but says that she is very thankful and thinks herself lucky, as her condition could have been so much worse if it went undiagnosed. 

‘My vision isn’t quite perfect but it’s certainly manageable. I’m very lucky. I’m now able to continue with my fitness training. I run about twice a week and go to boot camp classes three times a week, as well as cycling and exercising my three dogs. I’m considering doing Tough Mudder at some point I the future, too, if I can get my fitness right back up.’

Katriona adds: ‘I was lucky enough to see Claire again just before I went off on maternity leave, and it was clear that she had received very good care from the ophthalmologists she was treated by. She has been very lucky and had she not been persuaded by her neighbour to come and have a second test, the outcome could have been very different for Claire.

Eyesight is a gift, book an eye test
‘Specsavers recommends that everyone should have an eye test every two years. Eye examinations can reveal not only problems with sight but can also be helpful in detecting signs of other health problems, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. 

Claire says: ‘Eyesight is a gift. I tell people my story all the time, and religiously take my two daughters for their eye tests. It’s so important that we look after ourselves and I’d urge anyone who has symptoms they’re unsure of or is overdue for an eye test to book an appointment now. My eye test cost £10; it might be the best money I’ve ever spent. I had no idea that I had weak retinas or of what Katriona would find, but I’m so lucky that she spotted the problem and set me on the path to recovery.’

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