A mother wearing a pink cardigan sitting on a green sofa with her son on her lap.

Cleo Alexander and her son were both diagnosed with a vision-threatening condition as babies. Thanks to the sight-saving surgery at Moorfields, their eyesight was saved!

In 1984, Cleo and her family were living in Athens, Greece. She was only three months old when her mother noticed there was something different about her eyes. 

Cleo was sensitive to light, her eyes were red and puffy, and she cried very often.

What is glaucoma?

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Glaucoma is an eye condition where damage to the optic nerve causes sight loss. It is usually caused by the pressure inside your eye rising too high.

Your eye is full of fluid, which helps it to keep its shape and function properly. If too much fluid builds up inside the eye, the pressure rises and squeezes the optic nerve at the back of the eye.

This can cause damage to your optic nerve - a bundle of over a million nerve fibres that carry signals between your eye and your brain.

Pressure might build up in the eye when:

  • fluid is stopped from draining away
  • extra fluid is produced after an eye injury or infection - this is called secondary glaucoma’
  • there is an abnormality in the shape of the eye in children - this is called congenital glaucoma’

Glaucoma tends to develop slowly over many years. As there is currently no cure for glaucoma, treatment focuses on early diagnosis, careful monitoring and regular treatment to help prevent further sight loss.

9 in 10

people diagnosed with glaucoma today who get the treatment they need will retain useful sight for the rest of their lives

It is not currently possible to repair the optic nerve once it has been damaged, so any vision lost to glaucoma cannot be recovered. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness.

There are usually no symptoms of a rising pressure in the eye until sight loss occurs, so regular eye tests are the best way to help spot the condition early.

Diagnosis and treatment

As she previously lived in England, she was recommended to have treatment at Moorfields as the medical technology was more advanced.

A month later, Cleo and her family stayed with relatives in London, and she had eye surgery on both eyes. 

Cleo had another operation on her right eye at 9 years old and again at 14 years old. This was to decrease the pressure further.

Her last surgery, a trabeculectomy, was a new surgical trial at the time, and it proved to be very successful. After that she could see a lot clearer and felt happier.

The doctor referred Cleo to the local private hospital where she was diagnosed with glaucoma.

What is a trabeculectomy?

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A trabeculectomy is surgical procedure which lowers the pressure inside the eye in patients with glaucoma.

Cleo is now 40 years old and has been treatment-free for 26 years!

Living with glaucoma

Cleo feels her mum was most affected by her glaucoma. The thought of not knowing if her baby would have any eyesight left and having to deal with that at a young age was terrifying to her.

Glaucoma has not stopped Cleo from living a normal life. Although, it limits her ability to do some jobs, as she can’t drive.

Cleo’s son’s diagnosis

Cleo and her husband noticed their son had red, cloudy and sore-looking eyes. They took him to the GP, who referred him to the Lister Hospital Eye Department, who then referred him to Moorfields with suspected glaucoma.

At 7 months old, Moorfields diagnosed Riley with congenital glaucoma in the left eye. The following day he had trabeculectomy surgery like Cleo previously had. 

He was much like me: too young to understand what was going on at 7 months old, but he seemed fine afterwards.

Cleo Alexander

Cleo and her husband were nervous about Riley’s surgery but were relieved to find out it was a huge success!

Riley’s sight was saved by Moorfields, and now his eye pressure is excellent.

Cleo also felt reassured because there are now many treatments and much more knowledge about the condition than when she was born, meaning Riley has a better chance of receiving effective treatment.

We have great confidence Moorfields would save any child’s sight caught early enough and that they are amazing with kids too.

Cleo Alexander

Donating to Moorfields

Cleo is very grateful and donates to Moorfields Eye Charity whenever she can. Cleo is really thankful and gives money to the Moorfields Eye Charity whenever she can.

Staff at Moorfields also showed Cleo around and explained how her contributions have supported the purchase of new equipment for the hospital to treat people.