“I was lucky that my optician picked it up”

They say that you eat with your eyes and so for a chef good eyesight is very important. It’s also essential if you’re riding a motorbike. If you’re Dave Myers, one half of the Hairy Bikers cooking duo, and you do both of these things, then being able to see well is essential.

His diagnosis of glaucoma, a condition that can lead to blindness if left untreated, could have been catastrophic, but luckily it was picked up early and now he has a simple daily regime to manage it. With many other people not so fortunate Myers, 61, is now passionate about getting other people to go for regular eye tests so that if they turn out to have glaucoma — or a range of other conditions — they can get advice and treatment before it’s too late.

That’s why he’s teamed up with Specsavers and RNIB to champion the importance of eye tests so that more people get tested regularly and can have conditions such as glaucoma diagnosed quickly.

It would be a devil to be at the height of your career and have to reconsider your future because you have a serious eye problem

Myers’s glaucoma was diagnosed about seven years ago at one of his regular eye tests. “I was very surprised because there were no symptoms,” he says. “I thought glaucoma was the preserve of the elderly but I was in my early 50s and my eyes were performing and functioning normally. That’s the thing about glaucoma, it creeps up on you. I was lucky that my optician picked it up.”

Almost all of us would consider our eyes to be vitally important to us — hence the need for regular sight tests — but for Myers being able to see clearly has always had an extra significance.

“Ever since I was a boy my eyesight has been so important to me. My father was a papermaker, so we had no money but lots of paper and pencils — I was forever drawing. It’s always been important to me to keep on top of my eye health.”

His experience underlines the value of regular eye tests, according to Specsavers. “People often assume that going to see the optician is simply to check whether you’re getting more or less long or short-sighted but it’s about so much more than that,” says Dr Josie Forte, a head of enhanced optical services at Specsavers. “Your optician can also pick up on conditions such as glaucoma and diabetes.”

Having been diagnosed with glaucoma relatively early, Myers was given some straightforward treatment and advice to manage the condition. “I have prescription eye drops, and in my case, it really is as simple as a couple of drops in each eye every night before I go to bed. They reduce the pressure in my eyes which stops the glaucoma damaging my sight. I clean my teeth, then I put my eye drops in. I receive my eye drops in three-month batches, so I only have to go to the doctors four times a year.”

In addition to this Myers has his eyes tested for changes in his peripheral vision once a year. This can pick up on any deterioration. “I’ve been fine and, touch wood, long may it continue. More and more these days people want to be working beyond 65. It would be a devil to be at the height of your career and have to reconsider your future because you have a serious eye problem,” he says.

Born in Barrow in Furness in Cumbria, and married with two stepchildren, Myers has not always been a chef. He studied fine art at Goldsmiths, University of London, before earning a Masters degree in art history. Many people are surprised, though, to hear about his first job.

“I started life as a make-up artist,” he reveals. “I was at art school first, so vision has always been very important to me. I worked for 22 years doing make-up, prosthetics and sculpture. I’d passionately cooked all my life before I launched my culinary career. As a make-up artist I was working with such fine detail, especially with prosthetics. I had to effectively fit a new nose onto an actor’s face without viewers seeing the join.”

It was on the set of a BBC drama called The Gambling Man that Myers met his Hairy Bikers co-star Si King. “I was in charge of make-up and prosthetics and Si was an assistant director and location manager,” he says. “On my first day I met all of the crew in the pub. Everyone was ordering white wine spritzers and sandwiches, but Si asked for a pint of lager and a curry. I thought: ‘I’ll have what he’s having.’”

Myers and King discovered that they had more in common than a career in television and an enthusiasm for curry and lager. “After lunch he came outside and saw my motorbike then invited me round to his house for Sunday lunch,” remembers Myers. “He’d grown up in a parallel world to mine, also cooking and riding motorbikes all his life.”

Hairy Bikers Cookbook started in 2004 and Myers says: “I have the best job in the world.”

Today the Hairy Bikers are both concerned with healthy eating and the effect that food can have on eye health and other parts of the body. Since his diagnosis Myers is more aware than ever of the need to look after his eyes. “I use the eye drops every day and I have my eyes tested regularly, so I’m quite optimistic that it won’t have any impact on my life. I’d say to anyone who is worried, just go and have an eye test.”

For more information please visit www.rnib.org.uk or www.specsavers.co.uk