Fairbairn Opticians in the Community – Congenital Glaucoma

Recently at Balmoral Show a polished, vintage, Red Massey Ferguson 135, caught not only my eye but the interest of quite a few passers-by.

This beautifully restored tractor had two seats and two steering wheels. As I could not answer my intrigued children’s questions as to the purpose of this vehicle, I approached the owner to find out why.

Owners Alan and David Hopkins from Comber, explained that David, (Alans son) was born with an eye condition known as Congenital glaucoma. It was diagnosed shortly after birth and he lost his sight in his left eye. As he grew older the vision in his right eye deteriorated.

Growing up David had a shared interest with his Dad for vintage tractors. He enjoyed driving under his Dads supervision at local Vintage Tractor Runs around Comber to raise money for various charities. However as David’s condition worsened driving at these events became impossible.

When Alan retired 5 years ago he thought he would put his spare time into his interest and restore a vintage tractor together with his son.

They first purchased a little grey Ferguson and Alan’s desire was to restore the vehicle in someway that his son could continue to enjoy taking part in the tractor runs. So he researched and to no avail could he find a solution. After a lot of thought he began to take the engine apart and widened the back wheel chassis. In doing this he was then able to place two seats side by side, move the control pedals of the tractor and steering wheel to the right hand side and add a second dummy steering wheel in order for David to sit beside him and feel like he was driving the tractor at the charity events they would attend.

After the successful restoration of the Ferguson tractor Alan and David decided to purchase the Massey Ferguson 135 and restore it in the same way they did the little grey Ferguson, so that David could continue to enjoy his passion. Little did they think that by attending Balmoral Show would it draw the attention of an Optometrist who cares for and treats people with Glaucoma!

Very few people are born like David with Congenital glaucoma, more people acquire glaucoma with age.

Glaucoma is an eye condition in which the optic nerve, the nerve that connects the eye to the brain becomes damaged. The damage usually occurs due to a build up of fluid at the front of the eye, which in turn increases the pressure within the eye. It can lead to loss of vision if not diagnosed and treated early.

As well as age there are many ‘risk factors’ for developing glaucoma. These are:

  • Ethnic origin – People of Afro-Caribbean origin have an increased risk of developing glaucoma.
  • Family History – There is a ‘genetic’ element to glaucoma. If a close relative (parent/sibling) has glaucoma, you should not worry, but ensure you have regular check-ups to detect any changes as early as possible, should they ever occur.
  • Myopia – Very short-sighted people are more at risk of developing chronic glaucoma.
  • Diabetes

Most of these ‘risk factors’ are uncontrollable but one that can be managed is high pressure within the eye.

This can be controlled by following a simple regimen of daily drops to the eye which can delay progression of glaucoma in the vast majority of people. Sometimes, an operation called Trabeculectomy is required. Both of these treatments have been shown to be very effective.

Glaucoma usually has no symptoms but silently deteriorates your vision so as an Optician the emphasis for regular routine appointments in which the health of your eye is examined is extremely important.

At Fairbairn Opticians we perform tests to detect glaucoma. They include:

  • Measuring the pressure inside the eye – often a puff of air or a special contact ‘tonometer’.
  • Examination of your ‘visual field’ – usually, a machine where you press a button when you see lights in your peripheral vision.
  • Examination of your optic nerve using a special machine Ocular Coherence Tomography (OCT scan).

All of these tests are very straightforward, don’t hurt and are all included in our enhanced eye examination which is performed by one of highly qualified optometrists within both of our practices.