Why spending $50 on an eye test could save your life

How important are your eyes? How many people get their eyes checked regularly? Do you go to a specialist or just turn up at the budget eyeglass people to get your test? Do you do follow up tests with your specialist to make sure there is nothing wrong. Are you fed up with the cost? Are you familiar with your eye problems? What regular checks to you actually get? Boring?! No not really!

My eyes started to get worse at the age of 44. I can remember not being able to read the fine print on a CD as it all went blurry. However I survived with some magnifying glasses that you buy at the chemist for quite some years which apparently was a real no-no. My husband on the other hand, being a couple of years behind me in age, did not seem to be as bad with his eyes and when we both did go and finally get glasses, my eyes needed a lot stronger magnifying than he did.

Then we ended up with a specialist once a year because I had signs that cataracts might develop and was required to be checked yearly. He was told to have regular tests for his diabetes. After a number of years we found we dropped the specialist because of the expense of over $300 each trip per person. We felt the same tests were done when you got glasses for no extra cost as when you do go for glasses and the tests beforehand they do give you pressure tests and other tests before giving you the glasses.

This year my husband went to Big W for glasses. It was just convenient, as they had a new optometrist section in the shop, and I had been there late last year for tests and glasses. They had a new machine for testing eyes and said it would be an extra $50 if my husband wanted to get the extra testing. It was only because he had $50 in his wallet that he took the test. When he finished the test he was told he should go and see a specialist as he had a spot inside the back of his eye. This spot had never ever shown up on any equipment before which was strange.

Ad. Article continues below.

It was quite a number of weeks before he could get into a specialist on the Sunshine Coast, and when he did finally get in, the specialist did all the checks. When the results came back he was told he should see a specialist in Brisbane that dealt with eye cancer, as it looked like he may have a melanoma inside the back of the eye. The doctor said he was not sure if it was cancer, but recommended he make an appointment within the next month or so with a more specialised specialist. 

It was a couple of months before he could get into the Brisbane specialist and the results were confirmed as definitely cancer and definitely a melanoma. When you actually looked at the screen when the doctor did the scan of the eye, this spot appeared to be like a hollow shaped half moon on the back of the inside of the eye. These melanomas apparently appear more in blonde hair blue eyed men and although he is now grey hair, blue eyed male, it was not good!

So he was booked in for a radium patch to be put on the back of his eye. The process involved one operation to put the patch on the back of the eye, being locked in a lead room in hospital for a couple of days while the patch hopefully killed the cancer, and then another operation to remove the radium patch two days later. He came home with an awfully messed up eye, but in a week it was back to normal and he only ended up with a very minor blind spot on a tiny section of his vision. My gosh! We had never ever heard of anything like this before.

Ad. Article continues below.

Now you would think after all that trouble my husband would put his eyes as priority. He was told by the specialist he could have further complications brought on by the radium treatment and his diabetes. He did attend the follow up appointment and it was all good news, but he failed to get to Brisbane for the next two appointments because of being too tired to make the journey after night work. I am sure he will get there sometime soon.

But his story just shows how important it is to keep a proper check on your eyes. It may not be a specialist that you need, but they must have the correct equipment. We were absolutely amazed that his condition was never ever picked up before by anyone else he had been to see, including past specialists. It is like a silent death sentence if you do not find these sorts of cancers.  So our thanks go to the Big W optometrist with their $50 machine.

Tell us, when was the last time you went to the optometrist? What did they tell you?