World Glaucoma Week 2019: Victoria Maddock raises awareness of the ‘silent thief of sight’ that affects people of all ages
This World Glaucoma Week (10th-16th March), Portsmouth-based Victoria Maddock, who has a rare form of glaucoma, is working with Fight for Sight to raise awareness of the condition – one of the leading causes of blindness in the world.
Last year, when Victoria was just 27, she awoke one morning with extremely blurred vision and a severe headache. Frightened, she immediately sought medical attention and later was told she had the condition Irido Corneal Endothelial Syndrome (ICE) - a rare form of glaucoma.
Since being diagnosed, Victoria has undergone two types of eye surgery in an attempt to improve the symptoms of her condition. The first was unsuccessful, and Victoria is still waiting to see the results of the second treatment and how effective it has been. Victoria is therefore raising awareness around the prevalence of glaucoma and the fact that the condition affects young people, as well as the elderly. Victoria emphasises the need for young people in particular to go for regular eye tests – a minimum of once every two years – particularly as glaucoma often has no symptoms until damage has already been done.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, affecting 60 million people globally and 480,000 people in the UK. Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye conditions that cause sight loss through damage to the optic nerve – the nerve that connects the eyes to the brain. There are different types of glaucoma and increased eye pressure and age are important risk factors.
At present sight lost from glaucoma is irreversible, but damage can be prevented if detected and treated early. This is why raising awareness on glaucoma, as well as the need for funding vital glaucoma research, play a big part in creating a future that everyone can see.
Fight for Sight is currently funding 27 glaucoma research projects across the UK. These range from exploring the development of glaucoma to finding new treatments that could lower eye pressure and reduce the damage to the delicate eye tissues.
Victoria said: “It was really scary to wake up one day with blurred vision – I was immediately worried that I would lose my sight. Unfortunately, my first surgery was unsuccessful, and I am currently recovering from further treatment. I am hopeful that future treatments will be available to me. I am working with Fight for Sight to raise awareness of glaucoma, and to highlight that this condition can affect younger people as well as elderly people. I hope that by sharing my story it will encourage more young people to have regular eye tests.”
Dr Neil Ebenezer, Director of Research, Policy and Innovation at Fight for Sight, said: “Glaucoma is often referred to as the ‘silent thief of sight’, as often there are no noticeable symptoms in the early stages. It’s therefore so important that people go for an eye test at least every two years. Even if your vision is not currently affected, it’s still really important to get your eyes tested as a test can pick up signs of glaucoma at an early stage, allowing you to get the treatment you need. It’s also important to check your family history – if a close family member has glaucoma you are at increased risk and so you are entitled to free annual eye tests."
What are the signs and symptoms of glaucoma?
Glaucoma tends to develop slowly and often doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms until damage has already occurred. Sometimes people experience acute glaucoma which causes a sudden onset of severe eye pain and blurred vision.
When glaucoma does cause symptoms, these might include:
• Blurred and reduced vision starting with peripheral vision (outer edges) and develops very slowly.
• Seeing rings and rainbow-coloured circles around bright lights.
• Severe eye pain that comes on suddenly. This might be accompanied by redness and tenderness of the eye and surrounding area, plus a headache, nausea and vomiting.
Victoria will also be helping to raise awareness of glaucoma by supporting Fight for Sight with fundraising events, and supporting the charity at the London Marathon this year, in which 19 runners will be running for Fight for Sight to raise money for vital eye research that could lead to the next scientific breakthrough in restoring sight loss.
For more information about fundraising events in 2019, visit fightforsight.org.uk/events.