Retired banker Laurel wanted to raise awareness for the often misdiagnosed condition Temporal Arteritis. Also known as Giant Cell Arteritis, the symptoms of stiff neck, headache and painful jaw are often put down to other illnesses such as an infection.
But in fact, particularly in women over the age of 50, they can be a sign of this condition. And worryingly, if it isn’t diagnosed swiftly it can lead to blindness.
Professor Bhaskar Dasgupta, a rheumatologist at Southend Hospital and a leading expert, is currently running an awareness campaign for GPs.
He wants doctors to check patients for symptoms such as jaw pain and blurry vision. If Temporal Arteritis is suspected a simple blood test can confirm the diagnosis and steroids can swiftly prevent the condition spreading to the eyes.
Laurel believes she has been extremely lucky that she did not go blind. Aged 63, she has always been a fit person who eats healthily and loves a game of tennis or golf. So when she began suffering from aches and pains, she simply put it down to overdoing it a little. She thought so little of her symptoms that she and husband Tim even flew to Plettenberg Bay, a seaside resort in South Africa where they have an apartment. Despite getting worse while they were there – she could barely get out of bed in the morning – she simply visited a chiropractor and a physiotherapist. It was only when she got home and googled her symptoms she realised they could be a sign of something more serious that she went to her GP. And thankfully he put her on steroids straightaway. Laurel is now much better and says every day she opens her eyes and sees the ceiling she feels grateful for her sight. Her consultant had warned she could have gone blind at any time.
My thanks to Prof Dasgupta and Pat Stone at Southend Hospital for all their help as I researched this article. To find out more: Giant Cell Arteritis.