A retired nurse who developed a condition - which is the leading cause of blindness in over 50s in Ireland - is appealing to the public not to take their eyesight for granted.
Bernie Glynn, who previously worked in Dublin but moved to Ballylee in Peterswell in 2007, is keen to highlight the risk of Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD ). There are almost 100,000 diagnosed cases in this country.
Ms Glynn, who was diagnosed when she was 60 eight years ago, learned that she had AMD following her retirement. She began to experience distorted vision in her right eye whereby straight lines would appear “wavy” and “distorted”.
The former phlebotomist says she did not take much notice of this change in vision initially. “I was compensating with my other eye.”
However when the problem worsened she decided to get the matter investigated and attended an eye specialist.
“I went to see Mr Frank Kinsella in the Galway Clinic and he told me I had AMD. I didn’t think it was anything like that. I was a bit upset because I felt like I was still young.”
Her sunny outlook soon took over. “I decided that was what I was dealt and I had to deal with it. I still had a good eye left,” says the woman who received a kidney transplant when she was aged 31.
“Mr Kinsella immediately commenced eye injections aimed at stopping the bleeding at the back of the eye and minimising the loss of eyesight. But the eye did not respond well because the condition was well advanced.”
Ms Glynn, who has been wearing glasses because of shortsightedness since she was eight, was diagnosed with Wet AMD. “AMD is the most common cause of blindness in over 50s. As you age you are more likely to get it. There are two types:- Dry AMD which affects 90 per cent of AMD sufferers and causes loss of central vision over time and Wet AMD, a more severe form of the condition where the back of the eye grows abnormal blood vessels which leak fluid into it. This has a very rapid progression and can cause blindness much quicker. It affects 10 per cent of sufferers.”
Eventuallly she lost central vision in her right eye but retains peripheral vision. While her “good” eye was being monitored it became apparent in December 2011 that the condition had affected it also. She began receiving injections in this eye and it is responding very well to the treatment. “My other eye was too far gone.”
She says while her vision is not as good as it was she is managing well. “I am very happy that my other eye is responding to the injections. I can read and watch TV. I can see well though I wouldn’t be able to thread a needle. There is a certain amount of scarring which would affect me if I was working.”
She says she is blessed with Albert, her very supportive husband, great walking buddies and Mr Kinsella, the senior opthalmic surgeon, who is monitoring her condition. “It’s a pleasure to go into him and his team, I don’t worry anymore. We are on top of it now.”
Ms Glynn is urging people to recognise the importance of eye health and says while people are very conscious of the risks of high cholesterol and blood pressure they are less aware of the need to be vigilant about their eyes.
“I think people take their eyesight for granted. It is as important as their general medical health but does not get the same attention. The message that we need to get across is that people over 50 should get their eyes checked regularly. Early detection is important and early action is necessary to minimise eyesight loss.”