BBC Wales presenter reveals routine check-up ‘saved’ her eyesight

Owen returned to work in September  (Lucy Owen/Twitter)
Owen returned to work in September (Lucy Owen/Twitter)

A BBC presenter has revealed that she would have lost her eyesight, were it not for a routine eye test.

Lucy Owen, who presents for BBC Wales, recently returned to work after a three-month break to look after her health.

Writing for BBC News, the presenter explained that she’d taken the break after having emergency surgery to “save” the eyesight in one of her eyes after one of her retinas was on the brink of detaching.

According to the NHS, a detached retina occurs when the thin layer at the back of your eye becomes loose. It needs to be treated quickly to stop it permanently affecting your sight.

Owen, 52, explained that she had worn contact lenses since she was 15, but often missed her annual check-ups for years on end.

“In June, I noticed I’d started getting occasional white flashes in my right eye, particularly when I looked to the side,” Owen said. “It didn’t happen that often, perhaps once or twice a day, and although it struck me as a little unusual, I didn’t rush to get it checked out.

“I googled the symptoms – it looked like something that can happen with age, or possibly a detached retina. With my 52nd birthday around the corner, I rolled my eyes and assumed it must be another one of the joys of getting older.”

But after losing her glasses, Owens – who has presented at BBC Wales for 16 years – went for a routine eye test at a high street opticians. Here, she mentioned “those silly white flashes”, which had continued in the weeks since.

The optometrist kept looking at her right eye, only to explain that her retina was “in the process of detaching” and that should it detach, it could not be repaired.

“I would lose my sight in that eye,” Owens said. “It was a shock. One minute I was looking forward to a new pair of glasses: the next, I was in danger of losing my sight… My mind was racing. It was all so hard to process.”

Symptoms of detached retinas (as listed by the NHS) include “floaters” (which look like dots or lines) or flashes of light in your vision, a dark “curtain” or shadow in your vision, or changes to your eyesight, such as blurred vision.

“If it didn’t work, how would I cope? Would I still be able to work, read the autocue? Faced with the prospect of losing my sight in that eye, suddenly the vision that I’d always taken for granted seemed incredibly precious.”

The presenter was booked in for emergency surgery, which took around 40 minutes, the next day. For a week after, Owens had to lie on her side, with the presenter saying that it took three months for her vision to return.

“The main thing is my vision did come back,” she wrote. “All I can think now is how lucky I am. How fortunate it was that I went to the opticians when I did and they were able to act so quickly.”