Sue Barker health: Star was left temporarily blinded after horror incident – causes

Wimbledon: Sue Barker confirms it's her last year as pundit

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Explaining some of the reasons behind her looming retirement, Barker shared that she felt the “time is right” to step away from her dream job. She said: “I have loved every minute of it, working with so many great colleagues who I am going to miss so much.” Remarkably, the former professional tennis player turned pundit revealed that she was initially going to leave the job back in 2017 but looking back is glad that she decided to stay on for another five years. The star also added that the death of her mother aged 100 was a key factor in her decision to step away. She added: “When something like that happens it does make you reassess life, which is another reason I think this is the right time.”

When asked about the standout moments throughout her career as a presenter Barker responded: “I don’t want to look back too much yet on my time because there is still this year to come, I have a job to do and I am really looking forward to it.”

Without a doubt, during her tennis career one of the most memorable moments was the temporary blindness Barker suffered as a result of a dog attack, an attack which she thought would end her career for good.

Revealing details about the incident which took place in 1980 Barker said: “I was attacked by a dog in Spain and was temporarily blinded in one eye – I thought it would end my tennis career.

“I was quarantined for rabies, had 25 stitches around my eye, cheek and inside my mouth, and had reconstructive surgery. For a long time I was terrified of dogs.”

With an understandable fear of dogs installed in the star following the incident, fortunately surgery was able to prevent any long-lasting damaging effects and Barker was able to continue playing before retiring in 1983.

Temporary blindness is a serious condition that can be referred to medically as amaurosis fugax. The term refers to a “sudden, short-term, painless loss of vision”.

Although Barker’s vision loss was related to a specific incident, for many adults temporary vision loss can occur as a result of narrowing or occlusion of the internal carotid artery or the central retinal artery which can lead to a low blood supply to the retina.

Amaurosis fugax can also occur as a symptom of other underlying conditions. Specifically, it can be caused by inflammation of the optic nerve, nervous system (multiple sclerosis) or after a head injury.

There are also certain risk factors such as diabetes, smoking tobacco and using cocaine which can cause long-term complications that begin to affect the small blood vessels supplying the retina.

As individuals get older they may be more likely to experience amaurosis fugax due to higher rates of hypertension and hyperlipidemia (high levels of lipids in the blood). In some more rare cases, exposure to bright light can trigger episodes of amaurosis fugax.

In Barker’s case, sudden blindness was most likely caused by damage to the retina. A detached retina has the potential to cause a “total loss of vision in the affected eye”, or it may only result in partial vision loss, making it seem as if a curtain is blocking part of an individual’s vision.

Alternatively, the macula is the central focusing area of the retina at the back of your eye. When a macular hole occurs it results in a loss of your central vision, while your peripheral or “side” vision remains.

Treatment is needed urgently but can differ due the cause of temporary blindness. In most cases of sudden blindness the earlier an individual is treated the better their chance of a positive outcome.

First and foremost, an eye specialist will be able to give an official diagnosis of temporary blindness by conducting several tests. In some cases a doctor will prescribe medication that can help restore vision.

For instance, people who have become blind because of inflammatory-related issues can get medications for treating their blindness. In addition, people who suffer from blindness caused due to infections can have medicines as a treatment option too.

In some cases, surgery can help treat blindness. This is mainly used for people who have cataracts and can have cataract surgery.

For amaurosis fugax in particular, aspirin or blood thinners may be prescribed to help prevent blood clots. In addition, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes may be treated with diet and medicine.

If an individual smokes, it is very important to stop. If there is a serious blockage of a blood vessel in the neck, surgery may be needed to remove the blockage. Others who suffer from partial blindness may not be able to be cured.

It is important to note that in some cases healthy behaviours can help prevent episodic blindness, as well as a stroke or other health problems.

The following are tips provided by Tufts Medical Center on how best to prevent temporary blindness, if it is related to an underlying health condition or lifestyle choice:

  • Maintain normal blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels with diet, exercise, and medicine, if prescribed
  • Eat a healthy diet and keep a healthy weight
  • Stay fit with the right kind of exercise for you
  • Learn to manage stress
  • If you smoke, try to quit
  • If you want to drink alcohol, drink less than 14 units per week.

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