Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

'Facial Expressions Are Difficult to Make Out' My Health

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

'Facial Expressions Are Difficult to Make Out' My Health

Article excerpt

Byline: HELEN RAE

As many as two million people in the UK may have some degree of visual impairment. Health Reporter HELEN RAE speaks to one woman who is living with a rare eye defect TO look at Claire Parker you would not think there was anything medically wrong with her.

Yet the 32-year-old is partially blind as she has no iris in either eye due to a rare congenital disorder.

Claire was born with a condition called aniridia, which causes incomplete formation of the iris - the coloured part of the eye - and loss of vision.

It is estimated only one in 50,000 to 100,000 babies are born with the illness and Claire's mum Mary, 69, also has the defect.

Claire, who lives in Gateshead, said: "Not many have heard about the condition and it can affect people differently.

"For me, I do have some sight but I need to read large print and I can't see bus numbers. Bright sunlight also affects my eyes.

"I find facial expressions difficult to make out and it's hard to make eye contact with people.

"This can make it difficult when communicating as you're relying a lot more on the sound of a person's voice as opposed to their facial expressions."

People with aniridia can have a variety of eye problems.

Glaucoma can appear in late childhood or early adolescence and eye cataracts occur in 50-85% of those with the condition.

Claire, who is married to Tony, a web developer, is unable to drive due to sight problems and uses a symbol cane to get about.

However, she has been determined not to let her lack of vision hold her back and she lives life to the full.

Claire graduated from Sunderland University with a 2:1 BA (Hons) degree in health and social care in 2010 and last year was an Olympic torchbearer in the region.

"There is always barriers that I face on a day-to-day basis," explained Claire.

"I'm constantly having to be aware of my surroundings and I must always think the day out in advance as to what I need. …

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