A mum of four is encouraging others to have regular sight checks after a career change led to the shock diagnosis of the sight-threatening eye condition, glaucoma.
Sharon Margery, who joined Specsavers in Milton Keynes five months ago as a clinical assistant, volunteered to act as a patient during staff training.
The 44-year-old, who had not had a sight test for 10 years, had been prescribed migraine medication by her GP. She says: ‘For about three years I thought I’d been suffering from migraines and after I visited my GP I just accepted that headaches were something I’d have to deal with.
‘It wasn’t until I volunteered at a work training session that I found out I couldn’t have been more wrong. During the training we were required to sit at various stations in store to be tested by students who were being assessed on the skills required to test glaucoma.
‘After the findings at the training evening showed the drainage canals in my eyes were quite narrow, my boss said it would be a good idea to have my eyes tested fully. A couple of days later I was booked in with my colleague Natasha. I thought I was there for a routine eye test, but she confirmed there was a build-up of pressure in my right eye, higher than it should be. She referred me to Milton Keynes Hospital where I had repeat tests and was diagnosed with glaucoma.’
Natasha Dodhia-Shah, senior optometrist at Specsavers Milton Keynes, says: ‘Staff in store have been undertaking professional development training to allow us to offer more optical services to patients. During the training Sharon was examined using a slit lamp to look at the eye’s drainage system to analyse how easy it is for fluid to drain from the eye.
‘During the test we use a method called the Van Herick technique which involves shining a light beam into the eye to look at the space between the cornea and iris. This allows us to determine if the drain is narrow or wide, and therefore whether fluid can pass through easily. Sharon was on the narrow end of the scale, which means the patient is at a greater risk of developing high pressure. In Sharon’s case the pressure in her right eye had increased.’
Sharon, who is back at work, adds: ‘Everything happened so quickly. I had laser eye surgery in hospital to create a little hole in my eye to allow the fluid to pass through more easily, and since then I’ve only had a couple of headaches so it’s made a massive improvement.
‘I can’t believe that there were barely any symptoms and I’m so lucky that I changed jobs otherwise I probably still wouldn’t have realised that anything was wrong with me today. It’s made me realise just how important regular eye examinations are, and I hate to think what could have happened if I hadn’t had a test.’
Natasha, who encourages everyone to have an eye test every two years, says: ‘Sharon was very lucky. If this had been left untreated it could have caused an acute attacked which can result in a sudden loss of vision which may be irreversible.’
Specsavers has been working with the International Glaucoma Association (IGA) to raise awareness of the condition - the leading cause of irreversible blindness globally. A current training programme is underway to upskill its optometrists, reinforcing their skills in detecting glaucoma and monitoring the signs of its progression.