Anna-May Martin wasn’t the first in her family to be diagnosed with glaucoma. She wasn’t even the second. Her grandmother, father, sister, and brother all have glaucoma, and have each dealt with the upset of diagnosis and ongoing treatment for the condition. For them, glaucoma is a family affair.
Anna-May’s father was diagnosed in his thirties, when she and her siblings were still too young to fully understand what it all meant. “I can remember Dad having an operation and coming home with patches on his eyes,” she says. “At the same time, his mother was going through her own glaucoma treatment as well.”
Because of their father’s glaucoma, Anna-May and her siblings were all tested regularly from the age of sixteen. Thanks to their vigilance, they’ve all been lucky in catching their glaucoma early.
After her sister’s diagnosis at age 33 – the first among the siblings – glaucoma was always in the back of Anna-May’s mind. When her daughter Niamh was born eight years ago, she began noticing an increase in strange headaches and decided to go and get checked.
“My doctor originally thought the headaches might’ve been due to being a new mum, but considering all of us in the family have experienced these headaches, I decided to take it further,” Anna-May recalls. “When I was tested, my eye pressure was extremely high and I was diagnosed with glaucoma right away.”
When eyedrops couldn’t immediately control Anna-May’s eye condition, she underwent two surgeries and is now thankfully able to manage her glaucoma. “It can take time to find the right eye drops, but stick with it. I’ve been really lucky as my eyesight is still perfect, and I think that’s due to getting tested regularly, catching it early, and maintaining regular treatment,” she says.
Glaucoma has certainly had an impact on Anna-May’s family, but thanks to catching the disease early, acting fast and listening to the advice of their amazing eye health professionals (Anna-May particularly credits the ophthalmology department at Nelson Hospital with incredible care), the whole family has learnt to manage their eyesight. “Blindness could be a reality for our family; that’s why we are all so diligent with care.
“I’ve been living with glaucoma for the last eight years and it’s all good – there doesn’t have to be fear if you catch it early and manage it well.”
A family history of glaucoma is a very important risk factor. Glaucoma has a strong hereditary component, with approximately 40% of all individuals with glaucoma reporting a positive family history.
Having a first degree relative with primary open angle glaucoma increases your risk by 2-3 times the normal. If you have a sibling with primary open angle glaucoma then the risk is even higher. More info can be found here.