From the Herald Scotland:
Phyllida Law, the actress, has spoken about her fear that the blindness that struck her mother in later life will affect her daughters, Oscar-winner Emma Thompson and actress Sophie Thompson.
Glasgow-born Law, who has appeared in many of Emma’s films, including Nanny McPhee and Peter’s Friends, will appear on BBC Radio 4 next Sunday telling her personal and emotional story as part of the eye research charity Fight for Sight’s Christmas appeal.
Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Herald, the 78-year-old recalled how her mother’s glaucoma severely affected the last decade of her life. Law now suffers from the condition herself and fears the problem will, in turn, affect her daughters.
“She didn’t go completely blind, but her eyesight was extremely diminished,” she said. “Her ability to judge distance was diminished. She had tunnel vision really. She had to do things that blind people did, like put her finger on the top of a glass so she would know when it was full.
“Because of my mother’s condition, I was told rather firmly by the opthamologist to go get my eyes tested. I hadn’t had mine tested for ages.”
As a result, in 1993 Law was also diagnosed with glaucoma, but it was caught at a relatively early stage and was treatable. She needs eye-drops morning and night, which is “not inconvenient at all”.
“I’m a lucky one,” she said. “Glaucoma is rather creepy. You don’t know you have it because it doesn’t hurt. It means sometimes you don’t know you have it until it is too late. That’s what happened with my mother. She didn’t know she had it until it got really nasty.”
Glaucoma is the world’s second leading cause of sight loss. It occurs when pressure in the eye builds and, if untreated it severely damages the optic nerve. Around one in 50 people in the UK aged over 40 has glaucoma, rising to one in 10 over 75.
It is also hereditary. Once Law received her diagnosis she insisted Emma and Sophie be tested too. Their eyes are currently healthy, but Law still reminds them every year.
“Of course I worry about their sight,” she said. “I don’t get hysterical about it, but of course I worry. I’m a mother. I’m glad they get it checked.”
She said her concern for her loved ones was the reason for her fronting Fight for Sight’s Christmas appeal. Their work is “flipping brilliant”, she said. “Research happening now could not only improve treatments for me but could also save the sight of my children and grandchildren.”
Fight For Sight has been working in this area for 45 years. This year it spent £3 million funding research into ways of identifying glaucoma earlier and restoring sight lost through conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and diabetic eye disease.
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