'Coronation Street' star Lisa George says she could go blind due to eye condition - and may never act again

‘Coronation Street actress’ Lisa George, who plays Beth Sutherland (nee Tinker) in the ITV soap, has been diagnosed with a genetic eye condition that may cause her to go blind. Photo by Getty Images.‘Coronation Street actress’ Lisa George, who plays Beth Sutherland (nee Tinker) in the ITV soap, has been diagnosed with a genetic eye condition that may cause her to go blind. Photo by Getty Images.
‘Coronation Street actress’ Lisa George, who plays Beth Sutherland (nee Tinker) in the ITV soap, has been diagnosed with a genetic eye condition that may cause her to go blind. Photo by Getty Images. | Getty Images
‘Coronation Street actress’ Lisa George has been diagnosed with a genetic eye condition that may cause her to go blind.

Coronation Street actress Lisa George has told her fans she has been diagnosed with a genetic eye condition that may cause her to go blind, and has shared her fears that it could put an end to her acting career.

George, age 51, who has played seamstress Beth Sutherland (nee Tinker) on the ITV soap for 12 years, has said she has been diagnosed with the condition non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION), which causes sudden loss of vision in one eye.

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George has also told the Mail Online that she fears her disability will mean she may never be able to act again as she is now visually impaired in both eyes, after suffering another incident which has also impacted her other eye. She told the publication: “I always think there are people far worse off than you, and I'm just grateful I can still see but we don't know what could happen in the future.”

Coronation Street bosses have done all they can to help George, who first appeared in the beloved ITV soap in 2011, including printing off her scripts in big fonts, organising transport when she was unable to drive for six months, and also changing some of her scenes to accommodate her deteriorating eye sight.

George first had problems with her eyesight back in 2016 following a gardening accident, when the heavy knot at the end of a piece of rope caught her right eye and she suffered a haemorrhage at the back of her eye. A few days later the sight in her right eye completely went and she scraped side of her car while driving down a narrow country lane. She was later told by medical professionals that she had lost part of the sight at the bottom of her right eye and it would never return.

In the six years that followed George, who also has diabetes, saw a number of eye specialists, both privately and within the NHS, as she sought answers to exactly what had happened to her right eye.

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She said: “Luckily my left eye was really good with 20/20 vision and the only thing I struggled with after that first incident was being able to read. Corrie were great, they printed my scripts in a bigger font to make it easier but I just wasn't getting any explanation as to what had happened. I had scans, dye put into my eyeball, but the doctors were split as to whether it was the trauma from the rope or something else that had caused the haemorrhage at the back of my eye.”

But, in summer of 2022 George was driving home after celebrating the 29th birthday of former Coronation Street co-star Katie McGlynn, who played Beth’s niece Sinead, when she suffered a second vision-related incident. This time, however, it was in her left eye.

What is NAION?

Non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) refers to loss of blood flow to the optic nerve (which is the cable that connects the eye to the brain). This condition typically causes sudden vision loss in one eye, without any pain, according to Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

In many cases, the patient notices significant loss of vision in one eye immediately upon waking up in the morning. The visual loss typically remains fairly stable, without getting markedly better or worse once it has occurred. Unfortunately, there are no treatments for NAION that are proven to be effective, although there have been many clinical trials studying over a dozen different therapies, but none have convincingly improved the visual outcome in patients with NAION.

Recalling the incident, she said: “I'd had a lovely evening with Katie and was driving home on the M6 when my left eye went really weird. I couldn't tell whether the lorries in front of me were merging into one, it was very frightening. I managed to get myself home and took myself back at A&E the following morning. I ended up staying in there for a week which was horrendous. It was one of the worst experiences of my life.

“I had a CT scan on my head, two lumber punctures, and they wouldn't let me take my medication for my diabetes which was making feel really poorly. No-one seemed to have a clue what had happened, they just said 'you've got nerve clusters' and after a week they sent me home and told me to take aspirin for the pain.”

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George then saw another NHS eye doctor at her local hospital who confirmed that although her central vision was fine the peripheral vision in her left eye had completely gone. It was then that she was told about the condition NAION, but it wasn’t until last November that she was given an official diagnosis.

Speaking further about how the condition affected her time filming Coronation Street, she said: “Corrie were brilliant and said ‘don't worry we will help you with everything you need’. My biggest worry was the night shoots. I struggled to see the edge of the pavement during one shoot, but they've all been really helpful, making sure I'm okay. You've got to deal with it the best way you can.

She continued: “Another time, because I have no sight in the peripheral of my left eye, I was working on a scene and I had to come down the fake stairs but I couldn't see. I asked the director if it was okay to change the direction of the scene because I was having a real problem with the stairs, he was great and we changed it around. They have been so supportive in making these little adjustments for me.

“But I'll still miss a kerb, and if there's any darkness I'll trip over a cable. I do it at home all the time, bumping into different things. The worst thing is when I'm tired. And when I first wake up in the morning it takes me a little while to get proper vision.”

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Two months ago, George attended the theatre to watch a production of Romeo and Juliet and when she saw the actors leave the stage under a blackout the reality of her situation hit her. She said: “ I came out of there and I thought 'I don't think I'm ever going to be able to work on the stage again' because there's no way I'd be able to see if I had to come off the stage in the dark.

“The panic and fear set in and I got really upset. Obviously, I'm sure they put things in place for visually impaired actors but it was a real fear and it really hit me real hard, how am I going to cope in the industry in the future? It really hit me. I do worry about things like that.'

Explaining her condition George said that she has tried to remain optimistic, however: “There's only 11 per cent of people in the UK who have it. It's not a heart attack or a stroke, it's an in-between of the two. My doctor was dead straight with me. She said that I would never get my full sight back. The damage was done and I had to live with it. When it first happened I was so petrified but I can't worry about what could or couldn't happen, it's no way to live. I've just got to get on with it. I've accepted what has happened.”

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