Former RAF pilot says routine eye test 'saved his eyesight' after 'silent menace' diagnosis

A former Royal Air Force pilot has said his eyesight was saved after a routine eye test, making him one of the 'lucky ones'.

Martin Higgins was diagnosed with glaucoma in 2003 during a routine eye examination and said it was a 'a silent menace' to his sight.

To raise awareness of the condition that can lead to sight loss, Martin is running 1,000 miles from Land’s End to John o’Groats.

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He said: "A routine eye check at a local optician unveiled that I had glaucoma, a silent menace to my sight. I am one of the lucky ones because that eye check saved my sight.

“While I’m used to soaring far above the clouds in a fast jet as a former Red Arrow, on the ground, you’re most likely to find me diligently applying my glaucoma eye drops every day.”

Regular eye checks and daily eye drops kept him in the air, but soon after his diagnosis, he became aware of the shortfalls in funding for glaucoma research, as the Record writes.

Martin, from Buckinghamshire, is making his way through Inverness from June 28 - 30 as he runs from Lands End to John O’Groats over 35 days in support of Glaucoma UK. On arrival in Scotland on June 22 he was met with a bagpiper welcome followed by a Red Arrows flypast near Abington.

Martin said he hopes to support research to help others: “I found strength through talking to people. I was chatting to a colleague and he told me to have a “why?” list – writing down a list of reasons why you’re doing this. I want to help in making research possible for the many people who need it.

“The other ‘why?’ is for my son, and the hope this research means he doesn’t have to worry. So, if this research goes on to support my son, my family, then that’s my ‘why?’.”

Over 700,000 people in the UK are affected by glaucoma but half of them are unaware of their condition.

As part of their 50th anniversary this year, Glaucoma UK is encouraging the public to join them in the fight against glaucoma by pledging one action to raise awareness of the disease.

Martin has already netted more than £18,000 and is determined to raise £50,000 towards Glaucoma UK’s Pitts Crick Research Fellowship appeal.

The charity hopes the selected researcher for the three-year fellowship will go on to help transform glaucoma diagnosis or treatment.

Glaucoma UK’s Chief Executive expressed her heartfelt thanks to Martin, “We are incredibly grateful to Martin for taking on this epic challenge of running 1,000 miles to raise awareness of glaucoma.

"His dedication and effort to support the charity and contribute to the Pitts Crick Research Fellowship are truly inspiring. This remarkable feat not only brings much-needed attention to this condition but will also help further glaucoma research to help future generations.”