MANY people suffer with headaches and one mum had put hers down to her ‘poor vision’.
Karly Cox had worn glasses since she was three-years-old and because of this would go for routine eye-appointments.
When going for an eye test on January 12 this year, she was shocked after her optometrist spotted a shadow on her left eye – which turned out to be a tumour.
The 33-year-old mum-of-four was referred to Bristol Eye Hospital where she was diagnosed with ocular melanoma.
This usually affects the eyeball and develops from pigment-producing cells called melanocytes.
Karly, who lives in Somerset, is now urging people to get routine eye examinations, as it could help detect cancer early.
During her routine test at Specsavers Midsomer Norton, Karly was offered an Optical Coherence Tomography scan.
Karly said: “They offered me the extra health eye check and I went with it.
“She brought up the pictures on the screen and at first we thought it was just a shadow.
“It wasn’t until we looked at it closely and she was like ‘oh, it’s not a shadow’ she wasn’t too sure what it was and she was really concerned so she said the best thing for me to do was to go to Bristol Eye Hospital.”
Karly explained how she had many different eye tests, before being sent for a CT scan as experts believed she had ocular melanoma, also known as eye cancer.
At this point, Karly said she wasn’t aware of what the condition was.
She added: “Then he started talking about radiotherapy and when he said ‘radiotherapy’ I thought ‘oh, that’s cancer’.”
Karly was then referred to Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and started radiotherapy there on February 24.
She had to stay for three days to have her radioactive plaque treatment.
During the procedure a small metal disc was placed onto the surface of her eyeball over her tumour which gives out radioactive energy, with most of it directed inwards towards the tumour.
I haven’t been out shopping on my own. I’m too worried and get really anxious because I can’t see on my left side if someone walks by the side of me
Karly said: “At first, it [receiving diagnosis] didn’t really click. The impact of it hasn’t really hit me until now I can’t see, now it’s more upsetting for me because I can’t see anything.
“My vision is so blurry now, I can’t see out of my eye at all.
“If I look to the left it’s just black. They did say that my eyesight would slowly come back and would slowly deteriorate. It all depends on how my body reacts to the radiotherapy.
“Every day is different for me. Every day I wake up and I see something different – it might be blurry, it might be fuzzy or I might have double vision.”
Now, Karly says she never really knows what she’s going to wake up to, and hopes that one day she will wake up and her vision is good enough that she can see clearly.
Karly, who’s ‘still coming to terms’ with her impaired vision, said her eye is currently red and sore and that she won’t know until a couple of months how much vision she’s lost.
Karly said: “I just want to go back and do normal things again. I haven’t been out shopping on my own. I’m too worried and get really anxious because I can’t see on my left side if someone walks by the side of me.
“Even just little things, like doing my make-up, are really hard because I can’t see.
“I can’t draw my eyebrows on because I can’t see and get a lot of double vision so can’t really see and do things how I did before.
“I have been hiding my face and put my hair right over it so you can’t see that side just because it’s easier.”
What is eye cancer and what are the signs you need to know?
Eye cancer is rare and melanoma is a cancer that develops from the cells called melanocytes.
These are what give our skin its colour, while it usually develops in different parts of the body it can also start in the eye.
Here are the key symptoms:
- blurred vision
- seeing flashing lights and shadows
- brown or dark patches on the white area of the eye
It’s important to note that these symptoms could be signs of other conditions and you should speak to your GP or optician if you notice them.
The experts at Macmillan said that eye cancer is more common in people who have fair or red hair, blue eyes and skin that burns easily.
They add: “Eye melanoma is also more common in people who have atypical mole syndrome, which is also called dysplastic naevus syndrome.
“People with this condition often have more than 100 moles on their body and are more likely to develop a skin melanoma.”
Looking back, Karly said she always suffered with bad headaches and had noticed at Christmas she had been getting rings around lights and had been seeing floaty things.
However, she said at the time it hadn’t been enough for her to be concerned that there was something wrong with her eye.
“I just thought they were down to my vision, I didn’t think for a second it would be what it was”, she added.
During the coronavirus lockdowns, many people were unable to access the services they needed.
A report from Specsavers previously found that in 2020 there was a 4.3 million drop in the number of people getting eye tests.
Following her experience, Karly is now urging people to book in for a test.
She said: “Having that eye test pretty much saved my life.
“You have an eye test every couple of years and if I’d left it and if it was ocular melanoma because they’ve treated it as that because it was too small to biopsy and it was presenting as that, it would have spread to my liver.
“I just want people to be aware to get their eyes tested because it’s really important.
“Make sure that when you go and get your eyes tested, that you have that extra test because if I didn’t have it, then I wouldn’t have even known and it would have been a lot worse because I would have lost my eye.
“I definitely caught it just in the nick of time and they told me I was lucky because usually people my age don’t get it, it’s usually 65 and over.”
Specsavers estimates that 2,986 people have lost vision due to delayed identification and treatment of eye disease, with some experiencing severe sight loss and blindness
Kaye Bradley, optometrist at Specsavers Midsomer Norton, said: “It’s vital that you see an optometrist if you note any changes in your vision.
“‘The Optical Coherence Tomography helps us to view the health of your eyes in greater detail, it allows us to see what’s going on beneath the surface of the eye.
“Many people don’t realise the capabilities of the equipment we have in store with the OCT, coupled with the experience of the team, we are able to help diagnose many eye conditions, as well as make urgent referrals to specialist hospitals when necessary.”
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