During 2012 I became increasingly aware of a deterioration in my general health. Many symptoms emerged: lethargy, loss of interest, bowel problems, erratic blood pressure figures, irritability and eventually fainting episodes.
Toward the end of the year and into 2013 I suffered a number of UTI infections accompanied by collapses at home. Taken to A+E and treated for infection but no diagnosis of cortisol deficiency. The main point of interest here is I have no hint of sight problems at this stage.
In February 2014 (then aged 67) I went for a routine two yearly eye examination and sight tests. As you will know these are now very comprehensive experiences which can pick up wider health implications. Having conducted the visual fields tests I was told that my peripheral vision had deteriorated since the previous test two years ago. In order to rule out any other effect (infection for example) I was given an additional appointment a few days later to repeat the tests. The result was the same. My right eye was seriously affected. I must reiterate here that at this time I am still unaware in myself, as the patient, of the effect of the condition on my eyesight.
A letter of referral to the Ophthalmology unit resulted in an urgent outpatient appointment and a subsequent MRI scan. This disclosed a pituitary macro adenoma of 30 mm sufficient in size to compress the optic nerve bundle to my right eye, and reducing the blood supply. (I subsequently discovered that it would also affect the carotid artery which is adjacent).
In May 2014 I went to pre-assessment interview and discussion at the hospital. Following admission, surgery took place on 1st July by means of transsphenoidal resection of pituitary macroadenoma. Roughly translated this means the tumour was cut off and dragged out via the nostrils!
A further eye test four days later showed that following decompression of the optic nerves, my peripheral vision had begun to return and now three years later is essentially normal, commensurate with my advancing years!
The one message I would like to deliver is to plead most earnestly with everyone who is invited to attend an eye examination to accept without question, and to spread the message to any relative or friend who may be experiencing relevant symptoms to book an examination. Remember this condition could be present even though you are not currently experiencing any visual defects.
Three years down the line my health, and life in general, has been transformed. I no longer take the medications for symptomatic relief, the constant feelings of doom and gloom have long gone. I have returned to volunteering as a visitor to elderly and lonely housebound residents.
Any downsides? Well yes but it’s an unavoidable one. The procedure was severe enough to leave me cortisol dependent. Medication for this is required regularly every day for life and the body’s immune response system is reduced, so it is essential to steer clear of any sources of infection.
Despite the initial fears and anxieties the appointment with the optician generated I am very glad indeed that I was a regular attendee. I hope others will follow this routine also.
This year’s October Awareness Month 2017 theme is about boosting optician awareness of pituitary tumours. Further details are available here.
The more opticians we make aware, the more patients can be diagnosed early and avoid the frustrations associated with a long diagnosis and being treated for different health conditions that they do not have.
Spread local awareness by taking our NEW awareness poster to your local optician. Email [email protected] or ring 0117 370 1310 to tell us your address and we’ll send you posters!