Choon Young Tan was diagnosed with glaucoma in April 2022, when he was in his early 30s. Choon was not sure how the disease would affect him long term and made him unsure about the future of his sight. However, now that his glaucoma is being managed well by treatment, he’s turned his efforts to raising awareness of the disease with younger people and people in the East Asian community.
Because glaucoma becomes more common with age, it’s easy for people to think “I’m too young to need to care/to get it”. But I was diagnosed in my early thirties.
I’m passionate about raising awareness of glaucoma and encouraging people to get their eyes checked more regularly. I want people to take their eyesight seriously, especially young people and people of East Asian origin. Because glaucoma becomes more common with age, it’s easy for people to think “I’m too young to need to care/to get it”. But I was diagnosed in my early thirties.
Since my diagnosis, I’ve learned that glaucoma is more common in ethnic minorities. People of East Asian heritage, like me, are at increased risk of developing the disease. It’s also hereditary. My maternal grandma had it, but I don’t know if it is the same type of glaucoma, how badly it impacted on her sight or when she was diagnosed. So, it’s vital to speak to your family members to learn if there’s a history of the disease and find out if you’re at increased risk. My dad and brother have both had their eyes checked since I was diagnosed and, thankfully, they’re both okay.
My glaucoma was detected during a routine check-up with my optician. I was then referred for further tests, but it was a long while until I was able to get an appointment. The pandemic had hit, and it was hard to get a specialist eye appointment due to ‘more pressing’ medical issues. I wonder if it would have made a difference if I’d been diagnosed earlier. But, once I was able to attend the referral appointment, they confirmed I had early onset glaucoma (open angle).
I felt apprehensive when I got my diagnosis, and I wasn’t sure how it would affect me in the long term. I was given information about the disease which helped me understand things such as; it is caused by damage to the optic nerve, it predominately affects the older population, and it can lead to blindness. But the information didn’t help me understand what my diagnosis meant for me specifically. I still feel a little bit fearful of the future in terms of my eyesight deteriorating.
Like me, my dad is nervous about what effect glaucoma would have on me in the future. But aside from these worries, my glaucoma diagnosis hasn’t had a big impact on my life or the lives of my loved ones. My glaucoma is being treated with Latanoprost eye drops which I must remember to put in every day. I also regularly attend the glaucoma clinic, which I am the youngest person there by at least 40 years. But my eyesight hasn’t noticeably changed.
To anyone who’s newly diagnosed, I’d like to say that knowing glaucoma can be stabilised with effective treatment and there is help out there should you need it, really helps to ease the fear you might have when you’re first diagnosed. I’d also like to see more targeted campaigns for ethnic minorities and people of younger ages about glaucoma.