Laser-focused on treatment: Andrew’s glaucoma story
It’s been an ongoing process for Wellingtonian Andrew Lord in managing his eye health. With a family connection to both glaucoma and cataracts, trying out treatments and learning as much about the conditions as he can has held him in good stead the past few years.
Andrew was first diagnosed with glaucoma about 6 years ago, after an eye checkup at Specsavers revealed his eye pressure was higher than expected. He was referred to a specialist at Wellington Hospital, and after more field tests was officially diagnosed.
“It wasn’t entirely a surprise,” recalls Andrew. “My mother had both glaucoma and cataracts so I’d been aware of the conditions and the family link for quite a while.”
Trying out treatments
An initial eyedrop treatment managed Andrew’s glaucoma for several years and stopped his eye pressure getting any worse. He visited the specialist every 6 months for a check up, and his specialist was very happy with the condition of his eyes. Last year however, his eye pressure began increasing again slightly.
It was then that the possibility of SLT – a Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty – was brought up with Andrew. Initially, he was told there’d be a wait within the public health system but after getting Southern Cross medical cover through his work, Andrew decided to go ahead with the procedure privately.
He was a little bit cautious about the laser treatment, but remembers feeling reasonably confident that it was the right thing.
“Of course you’ve only got two eyes – so you don’t want to lose anything!” Andrew laughs. “But I remember thinking that if it was being done in the public health system, it has to certainly be approved and effective.”
On the day of his laser treatment, Andrew turned up at Tony Well’s practice in Wellington to have some final tests and checks to make sure everything was good to go. Initially starting with just the one eye, Andrew found the first session painless enough to do both eyes at once. All in all, he had 30 laser shots in each eye.
“The laser was a little bit painful, and more so as you got closer to the nerves,” Andrew recalls. “But the pain was nothing worse than a pinprick.”
After his laser session, he put on some special sunglasses that block out larger amounts of light than typical ones, and went on his way! Back at work he pulled his office blinds to make the room more comfortable and got on with this to-do list – crazy to think he’d had laser treatment only a short while earlier!
After work, he hopped on the bus to his church in Johnsonville where he was scheduled to deliver the bible study sermon that night. Taking his sunglasses off to do that, his eyes got a little sore and a bit sensitive as the night went on (until he could shield them from the light again). The next day though, his eyes felt back to normal.
To combat some of the discomfort Andrew felt, he recommends being as prepared as you can.
“Arrange someone to look after you on the day and perhaps pick you up if you need. It’s important to have a support system in place to keep you comfortable.”
An ongoing battle for eye health
Andrew was told his laser treatment would last for 3 years or more, so he’s still got plenty of time before his next top-up. This year, he’s gone back on drops to help maintain his pressure a little bit more. When Andrew stopped taking a heart medication that inadvertently also reduced eye pressure, his doctor made the decision to reintroduce eye drops to balance out any effects.
Andrew is also experiencing the beginnings of cataracts and sometimes notices flashes around the sides of his eyes when he’s driving. The two conditions aren’t related, but they both run in his family so he’s been prepared to deal with the two. His optometrist has advised that his cataracts aren’t bad enough yet to require action, but they’re keeping an eye on it (pun intended!) and might need surgery when the time comes.
Understanding and managing glaucoma
Andrew has been a member of Glaucoma New Zealand since he was diagnosed – someone at the hospital mentioned GNZ and he jumped online to find out more.
“As patients and being newly diagnosed, everything about glaucoma is new and can be quite overwhelming,” he says. “Reading about glaucoma and keeping up to date with what’s going on is helpful in understanding more about the condition and what’s going on in your eyes.”
For someone who is newly diagnosed with glaucoma, or perhaps wanting to figure out if laser treatment is appropriate for them, Andrew advises to always go with your doctor's advice and that if laser is an option for you, then go for it.
“It might be a little painful, but it’s worth it to control your glaucoma as much as you can,” he says. “If you can get your pressure under control that’s wonderful.”