A Dunfermline woman suffering from excruciating headaches received swift treatment for a potentially life-threatening condition after her local optician spotted abnormalities during a routine eye test.

Anne Barbour, 62, feared she wouldn’t see her daughter’s wedding in August after being diagnosed with temporal arteritis – which can cause sudden and permanent blindness, stroke or aneurysm.

Further tests
But thanks to quick-thinking optometrist, Douglas Allison – who spotted warning signs and referred Anne for further tests – she is looking forward to seeing the big day in all its glory.

Anne visited Specsavers in the town after three days of throbbing headaches, scalp tenderness and general illness and expected to be offered a stronger prescription. But after a thorough examination, the optometrist recommended she be seen at the Hospital Eye Service at Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline, where an arterial biopsy procedure on her right temple confirmed that she was suffering from the condition.

The mum of two is keen to raise awareness of the condition and has thanked those who have helped her through this difficult time.

Anne, who lives in Inverkeithing with her partner Michael and has two grown up daughters, Heather and Paula, says: ‘I had never heard of temporal arteritis before, and had never expected something like this could happen to me.’

‘When I called Specsavers they were really accommodating and booked me an appointment for the next day. The initial health check was fine, Douglas detected a slight deterioration in my right eye but found they were otherwise healthy.

‘He then went on to check my vision, and wasn’t happy with what he saw, so immediately got in touch with Queen Margaret Hospital to arrange for me to visit the optical specialist.

‘Throughout the whole process I never really considered that there would be something seriously wrong – I convinced myself this was just a precaution’.

However, Anne was admitted to hospital the following day and sent for blood tests with the results coming back in a few hours.   

Speaking of her shock at the diagnosis, she says: ‘When I was told that I had the condition, I completely broke down – I was devastated to be told the disease had potential to cause sight loss or worse.

‘But luckily the doctor was optimistic that, due to its early detection, I would recover.

Thanks to Specsavers
‘Had I not gone to Specsavers when I did, this could have been undetected for a couple of weeks and who knows what could have happened.’

Anne was immediately put on steroid medication, which she will remain on for up to two years to ensure the condition is kept at bay.  

She added: ‘I am still not back to full health after starting the steroids, but as the dosage gets lower I am slowly getting my strength back. I am so grateful this was caught early, or I could be in a very different situation right now.

‘The service at Specsavers was fantastic; they were understanding and put me at ease. I can’t thank Douglas enough for his very thorough check-up when I told him of my symptoms – symptoms that could be dismissed as anything from a common cold to a migraine!

‘Even after my diagnosis, the staff from Specsavers have stayed in touch to make sure I’m okay. I am so grateful to everyone who has helped me and my family and I can’t urge people enough to ensure they are going for regular eye tests.’

Andrew Hepburn, store director at Specsavers Dunfermline, says: ‘We are pleased that Anne came to see us when she did and we were able to help identify the cause of her extreme headaches.

‘At Specsavers our staff are committed to providing the best customer and healthcare service possible and when Douglas spotted an irregularity in Anne’s eye test he was keen to get to the root of the problem.

‘Cases like this demonstrate just how important it is to have regular eye tests. As Anne’s story demonstrates, eye tests don’t just identify issues with sight; they are an important health check.

‘It’s vital that people are getting regular eye tests every two years as part of their general healthcare routine and we encourage everyone, especially those who have never been tested before, to book an appointment with their local optician.’   

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