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Tessa’s story

Tessa didn’t think she would develop glaucoma because she had normal eye pressures. By the time she was diagnosed, she had already lost a quarter of the sight in one eye.

I feel it’s important for people to be aware that glaucoma isn’t only caused by raised eye pressure.

I had always known I was at risk of glaucoma because my mother had it, but I thought that my risk was low because I had my eye pressures checked annually and they had always been normal. I didn’t know you could get glaucoma with normal eye pressure. I thought it was only caused by raised eye pressure and the subsequent damage to the optic nerve.

I was diagnosed with glaucoma after a routine eye test. I’d had difficulties with the visual field test for a few months but I wasn’t referred to ophthalmology straight away, and I think I should have been. By the time my glaucoma was diagnosed, I had already lost 25% of the vision in my right eye. I feel I might not have lost so much vision if I had been referred to the eye clinic more quickly.

I attended the clinic on my own and felt shocked and upset when they gave me my glaucoma diagnosis. I was particularly worried about whether I would have to stop driving. I found it very difficult to get any information about my eyes from the doctors at the eye clinic. They didn’t seem aware of how anxious patients may feel at their appointments.

I’ve had daily eye drops since diagnosis, which have been changed several times due to side effects. These included the skin under my eyes becoming discoloured. Changing drops helped a little. I use my drops religiously and make sure that I never miss them. I also wear sunglasses in bright light. I go for a check-up at the eye clinic every four to six months and this has continued throughout COVID-19, although I’ve had to contact them to remind them when I’m due to be seen.

I feel it’s important for people to be aware that glaucoma isn’t only caused by raised eye pressure. You can develop the disease even if you have normal pressures, like I did. That’s why it’s so important to get your eyes checked regularly by a qualified optometrist, as they can tell a lot about your general health by examining your eyes.

At present, having glaucoma hasn’t really impacted my life, though I do worry about not being able to drive and losing my independence. I lead a busy life and enjoy walking, going out with my dog and meeting friends. I volunteer at a local horse sanctuary where I work in the yard mucking out the stables or serving drinks and snacks in the Visitor Centre. I’ve also been volunteering at COVID-19 clinics for the past year. I am now back working at the PDSA Pet Hospital in Leeds and hope to return to my volunteer role on the ward at St James’ Hospital soon. My glaucoma hasn’t stopped me from doing any of these activities. But it’s certainly made me more aware of how precious my sight is.

Normal tension glaucoma (NTG) is a form of primary open angle glaucoma (POAG) where the optic nerve is damaged, even though the pressure in the eye is within the normal eye pressure range. NTG isn’t a common form of POAG and can be difficult to diagnose at times, which is why it’s sometimes only detected once visual loss is apparent.

If you have NTG and would like further support, call our helpline team on 01233 64 81 70 or email Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.00pm.