A simple eye test saved Margaret's sight
Margaret Hammond had no idea she had a condition that could have claimed her sight until she had a routine eye test. The registered nurse, then 46 years old, thought her eye health and vision were perfect.
"I wasn't concerned about having my eyes tested regularly because I thought I was fine – until I was diagnosed with glaucoma," she said. "If I didn't have my eyes tested when I was 46, I might not have been able to see today. It's that simple."
Ms Hammond said she decided to get her eyes tested after her aunt and her first cousin were diagnosed with glaucoma, a degenerative eye disease. After a routine check-up with her optometrist, she was sent to an ophthalmologist for further tests and was diagnosed with glaucoma in 1996. Now 58, Ms Hammond said she is thankful she made that decision.
"Early detection of the condition saved my sight," she said. "Glaucoma is an insidious condition, and once the damage is done it can't be repaired. Even though I didn't have any concerns with my vision, I thought it was best to have my eyes tested and I'm so glad I did.
"Because of the familial link, I wasn't that surprised with the diagnosis, but it was still a shock to be diagnosed with an incurable condition when I didn't think there was anything wrong with my eyes. There was no vision loss or pain."
Her condition was arrested early, so Ms Hammond is lucky to still have excellent vision. She maintains her eye health by using medicated eye drops twice a day and has regular eye tests.
"Because my condition was diagnosed early, having glaucoma has not affected how I live my life," she said. "Yes I have an incurable eye condition, but I am diligent about putting in my eye drops and protecting my eyes."
Ms Hammond says Vision 2020 Australia member Glaucoma Australia has been an invaluable resource in helping her manage her condition.
"Glaucoma Australia was the first place I turned to after my diagnosis. I called them up and they sent out all this fantastic information which helped me to understand my condition and how I could live with it," she said.
"I still receive regular newsletters that are full of interesting articles. I now realise that glaucoma is more common than I originally thought, especially among people in their forties."
Margaret's message for all Australians this World Sight Day is simple – don't leave it to chance.
"Don't wait until you think something is wrong," she said. "If you're over 40, you should have your eyes tested regularly, even if – like me – you think your eyes are perfect. It's such a simple thing to have your eyes tested and it can save your sight."
To find out more about glaucoma visit Glaucoma Australia's website at www.glaucoma.org.au (external link).