My Story: My Glaucoma
Stories from friends and supporters highlighting their personal journeys through diagnosis and living with glaucoma
Canberra resident Ann Richens was diagnosed with glaucoma 25 years ago.
“I had broken my glasses and I went to the optometrist to have them repaired. He examined my eyes and found I had very high intraocular pressure and thought I had had this for some time. I always had regular check-ups with eye care professionals so this came as a bit of a shock.
At that time, I was living on the North Coast of NSW and was referred to an eye specialist who diagnosed glaucoma, but I found a lack of continuity with visiting specialists and I decided to find an ophthalmologist in Sydney. I used the Glaucoma Australia ‘Find a Professional’ page on their website and I chose a specialist in Ryde.
I thought I should discuss glaucoma with my family in the UK. I remembered that an elderly Aunt had gone blind although I didn’t know what had been the cause. I don’t recall if it was because I told my family about my glaucoma that my cousin was also diagnosed or whether my cousin had already been diagnosed but I began to think that glaucoma runs in families and made sure my own 4 children were aware of glaucoma and the need for optic nerve checks. Young people seem a bit blasé about it but when Susan, one of my daughters, went for her regular eye check she mentioned that glaucoma was in her family and asked for an optic nerve check. She was subsequently diagnosed with glaucoma at about the same age as I had been when diagnosed.
Spurred on that I can make a difference, I have been talking to my grandchildren as well. There are 9 of them and so far one of my grandsons is being identified as a glaucoma suspect – he is only in his 20s, but if people find it early enough and have it monitored then there is a really good chance of not going blind. Early diagnosis and treatment stops a lot of stress caused by late detection. I have had cataract surgery and a Trabeculectomy and I am scheduled for another shortly. It isn’t pleasant – early diagnosis might have also prevented me having to go through these operations.
Whenever I speak to other people who have glaucoma and feel scared or don’t know how to find a specialist, I refer them to Glaucoma Australia. I have found in my glaucoma journey that it is important to find eye health professionals that you can have confidence in, knowing that they understand.
If you have glaucoma one of the best gifts you can give your family is knowing they need to have their eyes tested, including an optic nerve check.
Sydney resident Sari Browne OAM was diagnosed with glaucoma 24 years ago.
From when I was quite young my mother used to take me to the eye specialist every 12 months for an eye check-up. Those regular appointments continued until I was diagnosed with glaucoma at age 55. During that time the first specialist retired, I went to another one, who sadly died and then to another specialist.
At age 55, this third specialist diagnosed that I had glaucoma in both eyes. This came as a shock as no-one in my family had glaucoma as far as I knew.
Seeking a second opinion, I visited yet another ophthalmologist, this time one who specialises in glaucoma, who confirmed that I had the very early stages of the disease. He has been treating me ever since.
It has been an interesting journey. I have used all the available eye drops. The pressures are variable and the disease has become quite aggressive over time. As a result I have undergone several procedures – trabeculectomy, express shunt, 5FU and sweeping needle, and cataract surgery. After my cataract surgery I also had two deep sclerectomy operations on my left eye.
I continue to have regular check-ups, including field tests and HRT. Fortunately I am in very good hands and, apart from the glaucoma, my health has been very good until recently when further surgery was cancelled when I had shingles and I developed polymyalgia and breast cancer last year. My vision, I think, has also been good, for my age, until the last couple of years.
Recently though, I have been told that if I don’t have urgent surgery I will be blind within 12 months. Already I have more difficulty seeing and I am booked to have surgery as this issue of Glaucoma News is being distributed. The plan is to insert a Baerveldt Tube and to have a scleral patch graft. Here’s hoping everything will work out and I will not lose any more vision.
Thankfully I have a very supportive husband and family who are well aware of my condition. They all have regular eye checks as well, which is a good thing.
My name is Debra Ciuffetelli and I have been living with Congenital Glaucoma for over 55 years.
I was born in the 1950s and already blind in my left eye; but my right eye seemed to be unaffected by glaucoma. My left eye was cloudy and large and by all accounts from my mother I suffered extreme headaches which often caused me to bang my head against the wall. I was unable to have surgery until fourteen months of age, as the surgical instruments had to come from America so I could be operated on. My Doctor tried to repair the abnormal system and create some drainage for the eye, which did relieve some of the pressure but couldn’t fix the loss of vision.
I was prescribed general eye drops which I continued to take until the age of fourteen when I was diagnosed with glaucoma in my right eye. This was devastating. Glaucoma had not been detected in any of my family and it was still a mystery as to how and why I suffered from congenital glaucoma. I began the use of glaucoma drops in the right eye to control the pressure and continued along until 1985 when my left eye once again began to turn inwards and multiple ‘squint’ surgeries followed over the next eighteen years.
My right eye had been ‘behaving’ itself well until 1988 when I suddenly suffered blinding headaches, dizziness and nausea. I was treated urgently, however the pressure continued to rise very quickly. I had emergency trabeculectomy surgery and was treated with many drops. I was extremely lucky to keep my vision and after three months I was able to resume my ‘normal’ life.
In 1990 I once again experienced blinding headaches, high pressures, dizziness and nausea. I underwent another right trabeculectomy, including having 5-FU injections every day for many weeks which proved to be a great success, even though it was one of the most difficult times in my life.
In 1991 my left eye had a pressure of around 60 mmHg and started to cause severe headaches. I had a left trabeculectomy but this did not relieve my headaches and in 1998 I decided to have a left eye enucleation and ptosis surgery followed. Following many months, I have a wonderful prosthetic eye and no pain.
In the past few years I have had other treatments, including cataract surgery on the right eye and recently on my left I had a pyogenic granuloma removed. My right eye is stable and doing well with no eye drops.
I would like to thank Glaucoma Australia for giving so much information to all those with Glaucoma. I was able to contact the Australian & New Zealand Registry of Advanced Glaucoma and have genetic testing, along with my mother and sister who had also developed glaucoma: the results showing that my sister and I both carry two of the ‘glaucoma genes’. I have two beautiful daughters who currently don’t show signs of glaucoma; they are of course regularly tested. I am a strong advocate of regular eye testing and Glaucoma Australia promotes that message so well.
I have had a very long journey, but with strength, perseverance, expertise and the knowledge of those around me, plus amazing family support I have been able to enjoy life and participate in many activities. With continued technological advances I hope to be able to see for the remaining years of my life.
Living with Glaucoma has made me strong and independent. There are difficult times but life is what you make of it and for me that is to take control of “My Glaucoma”, to deal with it when and if it misbehaves. I trust my story brings hope to others.
“Our baby, Sian, was born with congenital glaucoma. We have two other children and a large family – help families like ours to ‘Have the Conversation’.” - Megan and Frank
Frank heard about Glaucoma Australia and he contacted us to learn all he could about glaucoma, including if other members of his family were at risk of developing the disease.
Glaucoma Australia provided information and sent resources to help Megan and Frank ‘Have the Conversation’. They have two other children and a large extended family so they decided to host a B.I.G Breakfast (link to BIG Breakfast Campaign) at home as the best way to tell their relatives about glaucoma and the need for regular optic nerve checks.
All family members of a person with glaucoma have an increased risk, especially the direct relatives who have the highest chance (almost one in four) of developing glaucoma. That is why it is so important for close relatives to have regular optic nerve checks as part of a comprehensive eye test.
“We were so unprepared for the years of treatment and operations ahead for our daughter – we are grateful for the support of Glaucoma Australia.”
Help Glaucoma Australia continue its work with families like Sian’s.
Tony has been volunteering for Glaucoma Australia since 2002. After retiring from his busy job as a Warehouse Manager, Tony was looking to continue to be productive while at the same time wanting to help out in his community. Due to a family history of Glaucoma, his GP had recommended that he have an optic nerve check, this led to Tony’s diagnosis of glaucoma. He thought that Glaucoma Australia would be an ideal place for him to learn more about his condition and to help with the Association’s Mission: To eliminate glaucoma blindness.
Tony has always helped out with packaging and parceling and for many years has ensured that educational material, merchandise and Christmas cards have reached their destinations in good order and on time.
Tony told us that he had lived with glaucoma since 1988 and said, “I have needed cataract surgery, two glaucoma laser surgery procedures and an emergency trabeculectomy. Glaucoma Australia has educated and encouraged me throughout the years and to leave a gift in my Will is how I have decided to help everyone beat invisible glaucoma!”
Tony is a Glaucoma Australia “Giver of Hope.” He knows that a gift in his Will, can help others see into the future.