An Edinburgh optometrist detected his father’s high blood pressure when carrying out a routine sight test on him. Ian Hobson, director of Specsavers in Straiton Sainsbury’s, performed an enhanced sight test on his dad Ashley (65), which included an Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) scan.

The cutting-edge piece of equipment, which is usually found in hospital eye departments, revealed indicators of high blood pressure, that is known to increase the risk of heart failure, coronary artery disease and stroke.

This prompted part-time driver Ashley to make an appointment with his doctor, who confirmed his diagnosis. Ashley lives in Armagh with his wife Kathleen and has an annual sight test while visiting his son in Edinburgh. He says: ‘If you’d asked me before my test, I’d have said I was in perfect health – in fact, I’d never felt better. I didn’t seem to be experiencing any symptoms.

‘But Ian wasn’t happy with a couple of things he saw on my scan and made sure I had them checked out with my doctor. He thought there were indicators for high blood pressure and possibly for high blood sugar too, and the doctor later confirmed this was, indeed, the case.

‘I’ve since been put on blood pressure tablets and I’ve reduced the amount of sugar in my diet, all thanks to an eye test. ‘It’s was the first time I’ve had this type of scan, as it used to only be available in hospitals, but I’m very glad I did. I’m a prime example of why it’s so important to have your eyes tested regularly – not just to ensure you have the correct prescription, but to check your general eye health. I’m hoping that, in sharing my story, I can encourage even one person to be more vigilant.’

More about the OCT machine

An OCT machine is used for a variety of functions including screening and management of conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

Ian Hobson says: ‘The OCT machine is a fantastic piece of technology that produces a structural scan of the eye, including layers that wouldn’t normally be visible using traditional testing techniques.

‘On examination with conventional techniques the eyes were perfectly healthy and my father wasn’t complaining of any symptoms. His vision was unaffected at this point. However, beneath the surface, the OCT scan revealed leakage of fluid and swelling of the retinal nerve fibre layer, caused by the blood pressure, that would not have been picked up without the enhanced examination. My father was very close to suffering significant visual loss if this had progressed further.

‘While it was a worrying few days, I’m thankful my dad is now aware of these issues and can take steps to mitigate them. I’m glad that he’s in the habit of having regular eye tests and we at Specsavers want to encourage as many people as possible to adopt eye tests as part of their regular healthcare routines. And an enhanced sight test is well worth considering too – an OCT scan takes just a few seconds, is non-contact and painless.’

OCT scans are available as part of an enhanced sight test at Specsavers in Straiton Sainsbury’s and can be requested when booking an appointment. The enhanced sight test is available for only £10, in addition to any standard sight test fee. 

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