TAUNTON Deane's MP is encouraging her constituents to have their eyes tested after a scare with a sight-stealing condition.

Rebecca Pow was having a regular eye test at Vision Express, Fore street, when optometrist and store partner Deirdre Finn found she had high pressure in her right eye, which can be a sign of glaucoma.

“Vision Express referred me to specialists at the hospital and I was diagnosed with narrow angle glaucoma, which I’m now undergoing treatment for,” said Ms Pow.

“I’m so grateful to the Taunton team for being so thorough and referring me.”

According to Vision Express, in Taunton Deane alone, almost 4,000 residents are living with suspected glaucoma, which is almost 6 per cent of the local population.

Glaucoma is one of the biggest causes of preventable sight loss and, symptomless in its early stages, a regular eye test is the only way to detect it. More than 90 per cent of individuals who are diagnosed early will retain some useful sight, but late detection can result in total blindness.

Ms Finn said: “Glaucoma is called the silent thief of sight because it is often symptomless in its early stages, so a regular eye test is the only way to protect against it.

“Of course, glaucoma runs in families yet reports suggest that 31 per cent of people are unaware of that and 72 per cent of those in at risk groups don’t realise they are at an increased risk.

"We advise anyone who is affected by glaucoma to make regular trips to an optician for monitoring. Eye tests are free on the NHS to people with the condition, and their immediate relatives.”

Since her experience, Ms Pow has backed Vision Express’ call for eye health to be higher on the political agenda. She is a keen supporter of the national optician’s Eye Tests Save Lives campaign – a road safety initiative centred on the importance of regular eye tests for drivers.

“It is so important to highlight the issue of not driving if you’ve got poor eyesight,” she added. “Every year, a shocking 3,000 casualties arise because of drivers with substandard vision.”

In November 2017, Ms Pow attended an awareness-raising event held at Westminster by Vision Express for Road Safety Week, which included a demonstration on how conditions such as glaucoma can gradually steal up to 40 per cent of sight without it being noticed.

Having won backing from policy makers and MPs, Vision Express was recently rewarded for its efforts with an announcement made by the Government that it plans to work with the DVLA to include an eye test reminder when motorists renew their photocard driving licence – a milestone move and breakthrough in Vision Express’ two-year long campaign.

Ms Pow added: “My message is get your eyes tested; take advantage of the sophisticated and excellent equipment, and staff they have in places like Vision Express.

“They might be able to spot issues such as glaucoma which can creep up silently and then they can address it for you. They helped me personally with this and I can highly recommend it – go and get your eyes tested.”