Rosemary Shrager health: ‘It would finish my career’ – chef fears ‘terrifying’ condition

Fern Britton impersonates Rosemary Shrager on a boat

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The 71-year-old, who first found fame on the reality television programme Ladette to Lady before appearing on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! Has also embraced her age to star in programmes such as BBC One’s The Real Marigold On Tour where she joined other celebs to find out what it was like to grow old in other countries. Despite embracing the effects of ageing, Rosemary has spoken out about a debilitating condition that runs in her family, which she fears she might one day wake up with.

In an interview with Wise Living back in 2019, Rosemary revealed: “I have worried sometimes that I’d wake up one morning and not be able to see.”

The condition that the chef seems to fear so much is glaucoma – a common eye condition that damages the optic nerve with the potential to lead to permanent blindness.

“My grandmother and two great-aunts went blind, and my father had extremely restricted vision,” Rosemary explained, talking about her family history of glaucoma.

“As it’s often hereditary, it’s a terrifying thought that I could get it too.

“Of all the senses, losing my sight is the one I fear the most because I’ve seen what it means.

“As a chef, my work depends on my sight – I couldn’t do what I do without it. It would finish my career.”

The NHS explains that glaucoma is usually caused by fluid building up in the front part of the eye, which increases pressure inside.

Typically, the condition only affects adults in their 70s and 80s, but it can affect people of all ages.

As the condition develops slowly, symptoms do not appear for years, but when they do, the edges of your vision (peripheral vision) are affected first.

Other symptoms that individuals may start to notice include blurred vision or rainbow-coloured circles around bright lights. Very occasionally, glaucoma can develop suddenly and cause:

  • Intense eye pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A red eye
  • A headache
  • Tenderness around the eyes
  • Seeing rings around lights
  • Blurred vision.

Although symptoms may not have started, early diagnosis of glaucoma is crucial due to the potential of it leading to blindness. The condition can be diagnosed through regular eye tests, but if you suddenly develop glaucoma symptoms it is best to go to your nearest A&E as soon as possible.

Although it is not possible to reverse any loss of vision that occurred before glaucoma was diagnosed, treatment can help stop your vision getting worse.

The treatments recommended for you will depend on the type of glaucoma you have (acute angle closure glaucoma or secondary glaucoma), but available options include:

  • Eye drops – to reduce the pressure in your eyes
  • Laser treatment – to open up the blocked drainage tubes or reduce the production of fluid in your eyes
  • Surgery – to improve the drainage of fluid.

In a shock twist, Rosemary’s fears of glaucoma subsided after she did begin to lose her eyesight, but due to another condition.

Speaking to the Daily Mail last year, Rosemary said that her “overhanging upper eyelids” prevented her from getting on with her day. “It felt like the upper lids were being weighed down over my eyes,” Rosemary said.

“Each morning, without fail, I’d wake up and literally be unable to open my eyes. It was not only quite scary — you take it for granted that you wake up and you can see — but pretty painful, too.

“After rubbing and prising the eyelids open with my fingers for a good few minutes, the drooping would ease throughout the day. It sounds mad that something as light as an eyelid could cause such trouble.”

Drooping eyelids are a common problem. They are caused by a weakening of muscle (known as ptosis) or excess skin, fat or muscle in the eyelid area (known as dermatochalasis).

A study in England published in the journal Age and Ageing in 1995 found that 11 per cent of the over-50s had some degree of ptosis. This is due to the levator muscle – which is responsible for lifting the eyelid – weakens with age, but can also be caused by genetics.

Other risk factors include smoking, sun exposure and excess drinking can cause the skin on the eyelids to “sag prematurely”. Drooping eyelids are also more common in those who wear contact lenses, says Elizabeth Hawkes, an oculoplastic and ophthalmic surgeon at the Cadogan Clinic in London.

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