A West Wickham grandmother is sharing her experiences of glaucoma to highlight the importance of regular screening and the hereditary nature of the condition.
Evelyn Alphonso (68), a retired care assistant, was diagnosed with glaucoma – one of the leading causes of blindness among adults in the UK – aged 66, following a visit to her local Specsavers.
A word from Evelyn
Evelyn said: ‘I woke up one morning and started to feel some discomfort in my left eye while I was washing my face. I looked in the mirror but couldn’t see what was causing it, so I decided to go and have an eye test.’
She visited Specsavers in West Wickham, where store director, Bamini Raj detected multiple key indicators of glaucoma in her left eye and referred her for further investigation. Evelyn was formally diagnosed just days later with early-stage glaucoma at Moorfields Eye Hospital.
Evelyn said: ‘On hearing the diagnosis of glaucoma, my world just collapsed. Straight away I thought of blindness.’
However, since her diagnosis two years ago, Evelyn has been using prescribed eye drops to manage her condition. She added: ‘There are lots of treatments around and I make sure I take my eye drops, so I don’t worry as much now.’
Following her diagnosis, Evelyn, originally from Guyana in South America, also discovered a history of the condition in her family - her paternal grandmother, aunt and several of her cousins had also been affected. With increased vigilance to the risks of glaucoma in her family, two years on from her diagnosis, Evelyn is also reaching out to others to improve general awareness of the condition.
She added: ‘I would say to people, don’t be afraid of glaucoma. Go and have an eye test. If you don’t go and see about it then it will get worse. There is help out there.’
A word from the store director
Bamini Raj, director of Specsavers in West Wickham said: ‘Like many others, Evelyn was prompted into action by a change in her vision. Her eye test revealed significant signs of glaucoma but these key findings were symptomless.
‘Indeed, in many cases glaucoma exists with no noticeable symptoms and may go undetected for years, That is why it’s so important to have your eye health assessed regularly by a professional, and to be aware of a family history of glaucoma.
‘We would recommend that people have their eyes tested routinely at least every two years.”
More about glaucoma
There are four main types of glaucoma, with the most common being chronic open-angle glaucoma. It is a condition which develops slowly and if detected in good time can literally save sight, with more than 90% of individuals diagnosed early retaining a reasonable level of sight for life.
Anyone over the age of 40 with a first-degree relative who suffers from glaucoma is entitled to a free NHS eye examination in-store.