Biddy Peppin

Artistic vision: Artist Biddy Peppin reveals how glaucoma has affected her family, life and artwork

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.

In the UK, over 700,000 people have glaucoma, but half of them do not know they have it as it is often symptomless.

Once someone’s vision has been damaged by glaucoma it cannot be restored so it is important that everyone has regular eye tests so any symptoms can be picked up early.

Vision lost to glaucoma cannot be recovered, highlighting the importance of regular eye tests for everyone of all ages to detect the condition early.

Anyone can develop glaucoma, but there are several risk factors which make developing it more likely, these include having close relatives with the condition, growing older, higher levels of short-sightedness and increased pressure in the eye.

To mark Glaucoma Awareness Week, Specsavers has partnered with artist and art historian, Biddy Peppin to share her experience of glaucoma and the impact it has had on her family, life, and career.

Around age 60, Biddy visited an optician for new reading glasses. During this appointment they spotted signs of glaucoma in both eyes.

Biddy’s GP promptly referred her to Moorfields Eye Hospital. At this stage, Biddy had not experienced any noticeable sight loss, meaning the diagnosis came as a shock.

Despite being treated with a trabeculectomy, laser treatment, a gel stent and eye drops, glaucoma has now caused Biddy’s vision to become very patchy. She can look directly at an object without seeing it.

This change in vision has had an impact on Biddy’s work as an artist. Her paintings, which aim to be metaphorical, often show disconnected objects due to the limitations in what she can see. She can no longer paint outdoor landscapes as she once did.

Earlier this year, Specsavers partnered with the National Gallery to show how some of their most iconic paintings could appear to someone who suffers from glaucoma.

 “Sandro Boticelli’s Venus and Mars altered by Specsavers to show the effects of Glaucoma. Courtesy of the National Gallery”.

Not only does glaucoma affect Biddy’s art, but it has a serious impact on her quality of life, meaning she cannot drive and has difficulty navigating.

Finding her footing while walking can be an issue and looking for items, she’s misplaced can be a real challenge.

Biddy has two sons over 40 and urges them to have regular eye checks, as she knows the importance of early detection.

Biddy’s father had also battled glaucoma at a similar age to her, but with fewer treatment options available during his time, he eventually lost most of his sight and was unable to drive.

Gilles Edmonds, Clinical Services Director at Specsavers, adds: ‘Glaucoma is a common eye condition where the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, becomes damaged. Biddy’s story is a common one for glaucoma sufferers as it often affects both eyes, usually to varying degrees.’

Joanne Creighton, Chief Executive of Glaucoma UK, expressed her thanks to Biddy, “We’re delighted that Biddy, a Glaucoma UK member, was able to take part in this project and give a voice to the lived experience of someone living with glaucoma who is also hugely passionate and knowledgeable about art. Talk to your relatives about your family’s eye health history and visit to learn more about the disease.”

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Featured Image Credit: Golin Limited                             

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