When local teenager, Hashim Ali, started experiencing severe headaches at the end of last summer he put it down to a virus. But when he also started to experience problems with his eyes, he asked his mum, Fatima Begum, to make his appointment for an eye test which transpired ultimately helped to save his sight.
‘Hashim has always been quite a healthy child so it was unusual for him to experience so many headaches,’ recalled Fatima.
After a few weeks, the headaches subsided but Hashim started to experience blurring in his vision and asked his mum to take him for an eye test, as it was starting to affect school work and his keen interest in gaming.
The importance of eye tests
‘As Hashim was due for a sight test in a couple of months I thought about leaving it until then, but he asked me a few times whether I had made him an appointment, so I called our local Specsavers store in the Wulfrun Centre and booked an eye test.’ said Fatima.
When the local teen was seen by optician Manar Mossad, she immediately noticed something wasn’t right with his eyes.
‘During the eye examination we took a photograph of the back of Hashim’s eyes using digital retinal photography,’ explained Manar. ‘Along with a detailed examination, the images became key to diagnosing intracranial hypertension (IH).’
IH is the medical name for a build-up of pressure around the brain. It can come on suddenly (acute) but can also be a persistent, long-lasting problem (chronic). When the underlying cause of chronic IH is unclear this is known as idiopathic IH. The symptoms Hashim experienced, such as the throbbing headaches, blurred vision and nausea are very typical of the condition and can also be accompanied by a temporary loss of vision (triggered by coughing or sneezing) and a feeling of drowsiness and irritability.
‘As he had been a yearly visitor to the store for his eye tests, we were able to compare the images on his records and clearly identify the underlying problem,’ continued Manar. ‘I didn’t want to panic Fatima and Hashim, but I told them that I suspected IH and referred them to the eye clinic at Birmingham Hospital for further tests.’
From here Hashim went to several hospital appointments, all the while the store was checking in with Fatima to see how things were going.
‘Manar really was amazing, she went above and beyond,’ praised Fatima. ‘She regularly called us to see how things were going with the appointments and took a real interest in getting Hashim better. It was great to have so much support from her during what was really quite a scary time.’
‘Since the diagnosis, Hashim has undergone four lumbar punctures to help relieve the pressure around his brain,’ continued Fatima. ‘It has been really difficult for him as he is afraid of needles, but he has been incredibly brave. On so many occasions he told me he feared losing his sight, and as a mum that was very difficult to hear because I couldn’t do anything to help - but the hospital has been wonderful, as have the team at Specsavers.’
While the pressure has been relieved, Hashim is still undergoing treatment for the effects which included an increase in his blind spots. He attends regular check-ups at Specsavers to monitor his progress and is slowly getting back to his normal self.
‘Hashim is very cheeky normally,’ commented Fatima. ‘But during the hospital visits and immediately after the diagnosis he became very serious. We are starting to see his cheeky side come back now, and he is enjoying his gaming again which is great. I am just so glad I made the appointment and took him into Specsavers. I can’t imagine where we would have been otherwise.’
Fatima continued: ‘Part of what was so scary was that we knew nothing about IH, so when we got the diagnosis the unknown just made it seem so much worse. We wanted to share Hashim’s story to raise awareness of the condition and hopefully prevent someone else feeling that fear of the unknown.’
A word from the store director
Hardip Bahia, store director at Specsavers Wolverhampton, hopes Hashim’s story also reminds people of the importance of eye tests: ‘An eye test isn’t just about seeing if you need glasses or checking a prescription,’ she said. ‘It’s an important part of checking the health of your eyes and can play a major role in detecting both minor and major health conditions. We recommend adults have their eyes tested every two years or every year for children, but if you experience any changes it’s best to make an appointment and get your eyes checked.’
The optometrists at Specsavers Wolverhampton have accreditations in glaucoma and minor eye conditions (MECs). It means the store can offer eye health services to help manage a number of eye conditions allowing more people to be treated in-store rather than having to go to their GP or hospital. Anyone experiencing symptoms such as pain, redness or flashes of light in their vision can access these services.