“Misdiagnosed glaucoma almost cost me my sight” – Palmers Green resident, Sheryll Karpel, thanks optometrist who helped her after the condition went undetected for three years.
This National Glaucoma Week (4-10 June 2018), the Association of Optometrists (AOP) is highlighting the importance of regular eye health checks in detecting sight-threatening conditions such as glaucoma – warning that the signs often go unnoticed.
Sheryll Karpel, from Palmers Green, suffered what she thought were optical migraines only to discover that she had an eye condition which could have permanently damaged her eyesight. Now she is reminding others to have regular sight tests to help safeguard their vision and raise awareness of glaucoma.
Ms Karpel frequently visited her GP over a three-year period: “I was suffering terribly with these regular attacks. I would be in awful pain for hours and the only thing that helped was laying down. When I listed the symptoms to my doctor, like headaches and coloured halos, I was told that I had optical migraines but every treatment I tried didn’t work.” Ms Karpel’s attacks became more frequent, from every three months to every three days.
Following a massive glaucoma attack, it was discovered, at a hospital examination, that Ms Karpel had closed-angle glaucoma – a condition considered a medical emergency that can rapidly damage the optic nerve: “My intraocular pressure, the fluid pressure inside the front part of my eye, was up to 60mmHg which I was told, in many cases would have caused permanent damage and I could have lost my sight – that outcome would have been devastating.” Ms Karpel needed emergency laser treatment at Moorfield’s Eye Hospital to make holes in the iris to reduce her intra-ocular pressure.
After the diagnosis and surgery, Ms Karpel registered with a local north London optometrist at Harley Bain Opticians. Ms Karpel said: “Although the procedure was successful, I had post-op complications – inflammation and retinal oedema. The prescription in my eyes was now so different that it made my vision very blurred and I often felt sick and dizzy. These symptoms, on a daily basis, became unbearable which is why I decided to visit a local practice.”
To help alleviate these symptoms, AOP member and optometrist, Harley Bain prescribed temporary eyewear while Ms Karpel awaited surgery on her left eye. Describing the difference it made, Ms Karpel said: “I was completely taken aback by the time Mr Bain took to make sure that I came away with glasses that really helped me – he spent over an hour examining my eyes and asking lots of questions. After struggling for so long, it was a huge relief to have that level of care.”
Speaking about her condition, Mr Bain said: “It might not have felt like it, but Ms Karpel is actually very lucky to be making the recovery that she is. Glaucoma is a very serious eye condition – it’s one of the leading causes of severe sight impairment. Unlike open-angle, or chronic, glaucoma, where symptoms develop slowly over time, closed-angle glaucoma can occur very quickly and if left untreated causes severe and permanent damage to your vision.”
Karen Osborn, Chief Executive from the International Glaucoma Association (IGA) said: “Glaucoma is the name given to a number of eye conditions. People with angle closure glaucoma will know that there is something wrong with their eyes and seek help, unlike the more common form of glaucoma in the UK which is primary open-angle glaucoma. This type of glaucoma has no obvious early symptoms and is why we stress the need for regular eye health checks to take place throughout life. All too often we hear from people who are distressed to realise that the sight they have lost cannot be recovered, and that an eye health check could have detected glaucoma earlier”.
Ms Karpel added: “My experience demonstrates why it’s just so important to have regular sight tests. It’s easy to take your sight for granted but looking back, if I’d talked to an optometrist about my symptoms sooner, it may have been picked up earlier and the outcome would have been much better.”
National Glaucoma Week is taking place 4-10 June 2018. To raise awareness of the condition, the AOP is launching a new video, ideal for sharing on social media, to highlight key symptoms. For more information about glaucoma and treatment options, read the AOP’s patient leaflet and the IGA’s leaflets on closed angle glaucoma and open angle glaucoma.
Information on a range of conditions, and general tips for looking after eyes, is available at www.aop.org.uk/patients. The IGA is the charity for people with glaucoma and has a helpline 01233 648 170 and website www.glaucoma-association.com.
Images and the AOP’s glaucoma awareness video can be downloaded here.