Veteran, 68, almost lost sight after noticing a ‘black patch’ in 1 eye

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A retired war veteran had his sight saved by a quick-thinking optometrist after experiencing a black shadow in his right eye. In June last year Alan Licence, 68, who was being treated for cataracts in both eyes at the time, woke up with what he described as a “black patch” in his right eye. Having booked an appointment at an eye clinic, he flagged his concerns and had his right eye examined.

However, Alan, from Colchester, was shortly dismissed and told that they didn’t find any issues.

Luckily, as part of his cataracts treatment, Alan was already booked in for a six-week post-op appointment at a Specsavers branch for later that day.

Optometrist Louise carried out various tests on Alan, including an optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan, which allows an optician to look deeper into the eyes than other scans and can help to detect conditions up to four years in advance.

She immediately suspected that Alan may have a retinal detachment.

This occurs when the thin layer at the back of the eye becomes loose.

If it isn’t treated quickly, it can permanently affect a person’s sight or even lead to blindness.

Despite having attended a consultation earlier that morning, Louise rang the eye clinic so that Alan could be seen by a specialist as soon as possible.

After seeing the specialist the following day, her diagnosis was confirmed.

Alan, who has an MBE, said: “I was absolutely stunned when my detached retina had not been picked up in my earlier appointment and cannot thank the Colchester Specsavers team enough for their expertise and confidence in their diagnosis.

“Had my Specsavers routine appointment been the previous day, this would have been a very different story.”

Thanks to the swift diagnosis, Alan, who served in the Gulf War in 1991 and 2003, was able to have the necessary surgery just a week later.

Now the 68-year-old grandfather is looking forward to continuing on with his voluntary work at the North Colchester Men Shed, which focuses on improving the mental health and wellbeing of men in the community.

Alan’s optometrist Louise commented: “If anyone loses sight in their eye, you know it needs to be taken seriously.

“Early signs of a detached retina include blurry vision, floaters in the eye, sudden flashes of light or a ‘dark curtain’ which shields your vision.

“If anyone experiences these symptoms, it’s very important that they seek medical attention immediately.

“I’m extremely relieved that Alan’s appointment happened to be the day that it was, and myself and staff at the store were pleased that his vision was restored.”

The NHS lists symptoms of a detached retina as:

  • Dots or lines (floaters) that suddenly appear in your vision or suddenly increase in number
  • Flashes of light in your vision
  • A dark “curtain” or shadow moving across your vision
  • Vision that gets suddenly blurred.

It urges you to call 111 if you experience these problems.

A detached retina is often caused by changes to the jelly inside the eye, which is more common as you get older, and is called posterior vitreous detachment (PVD).

Other factors that can raise your risk of PVD include if you:

  • Are short-sighted
  • Have had an eye operation (such as cataract surgery)
  • Have had an eye injury
  • Have a family history of retinal detachment.

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