When Joanne Swalwell Williams made an appointment for her routine eye examination at Specsavers in Kidderminster, she had no idea that this check-up would potentially help save her life.

Sight test

The 37-year-old trainee pharmacy dispenser had been suffering from headaches, but put this down to eye strain, and had no idea that it was a symptom of a far more sinister problem.  

During Joanne’s sight test, optician Bikesh Dewett noticed that the discs at the back of her eyes were bulging, and so immediately referred her to the local eye hospital.

‘Obviously I was worried,’ commented Joanne. ‘It had never occurred to me that I might have something wrong, other than just needing to change my prescription.’

Referred to hospital

After undergoing tests at Kidderminster Eye Hospital, Joanne was then sent to Worcester Royal Infirmary. Here, following a CT scan, she was diagnosed as suffering from idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), a neurological disorder that is characterised by increased pressure around the brain.

‘It was such a shock. To think that if I hadn’t gone for the sight test the pressure may have built up and possibly lead to a stroke or even a bleed on the brain. It doesn’t bear thinking about.’

Joanne underwent a lumbar puncture to help relieve the pressure and is currently waiting for a further operation to fit a stent to ensure the fluid doesn’t build up again.

A word from the optometrist

Optician Bikesh Dewett said:‘Cases like Joanne’s are extremely rare, but they can happen. That’s why it’s so important that people realise a sight test is about so much more than just your vision – it’s about your general health too.

‘We encourage all our customers to see an optician every two years, or if they are experiencing any unusual symptoms to make an appointment straight away.’

Joanne added: ‘I’d definitely recommend that people see their optician regularly. An eye examination picks up things you can’t see and in my case, has potentially saved my life.’ 

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