Why spending $50 on an eye test could save your life 21



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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.

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.

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?

Gill Johnston

  1. My last eye test was just 2 weeks ago, as I have my eyes checked every 2 years due to having diabetes. Most eye tests are bulk billed here in Victoria, so why wouldn’t you have a regular test?

  2. Very important to have yearly tests. Especially if you have diabetes. The $50 was probably to get an in depth photo of the eye. The rest of the testing is covered by Medicare.

  3. Having had a retinal detachment and cataracts, I never miss an appointment. My vision is just too precious.

  4. Yes,yearly,but I changed from the specialist to OPSM because they have the same equipment and the specialist ignored my complaint of blurred vision. However OPSM referred me on,to another specialist who is waiting 6months and then I go back in January! Extremely frustrating!

    2 REPLY
  5. I have a regular test because of diabetes and have never know an optometrist that doesn’t bulk bill.

  6. Went last Friday as I felt my eyesight was not as good as it should be. I was right I need new prescription lenses. I am long sighted, short sighted and have astigmatism. The total bill for 2 new lenses ( I am reusing my old frames) was $910.00. Gave me a 20% discount came down to $720.00. Refund from Bupa $120. I did also request transition lenses and a reflective coat on the lenses. I told my husband he has to keep working to pay for my lenses.

  7. I’ve been wearing glasses of some sort for the past 40 years. Two years ago I had cataracts done on both eyes. The lens they put in my left eye has given me better than 20/20 (on the Snellen Chart I’m 10.6 20/20 is 8) so I can see things in the distance that I’ve never seen before. Right eye is a different story in the past 12 months I’ve had a torn retina and then a couple of months later a detached retina so now I have about 75% sight in the eye.

    So now I go to a Vitreoretinal Surgeon instead of an Ophthalmologist.

    Yes I still go to an Optometrist to get my new glasses. The current ones are a strange mix bifocal. No script on the left eye distance, a slight script on the right distance and two different scripts on the readers.

  8. I go to Spec savers and all the tests including the photographing is covered, I no longer need extra thick lenses since I have had my cataracts removed so my low prescription reading glasses and frames were fully covered by HCF, A few years ago the photograph revealed a haemorrhage in my eye and after specialist treatment, all is well. Yes they do have cheaper frames then the others but this way I can have my health fund buy me new ones every year and as all the ladies will know fashion changes

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