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Hospital’s pioneering eyesight treatment to feature on BBC’s Trust Me, I’m a Doctor

11 February 2017

Health Care

BBC health show Trust Me, I’m a Doctor is to feature the pioneering work of Southend Hospital’s rheumatology department as it leads the way in the treatment and education of a little-known condition that can cause sudden and irreversible sight loss.

Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is a condition in which medium and large arteries, usually in the head and neck, become inflamed. It's sometimes called temporal arteritis because the arteries around the temples are usually affected.

Symptoms of GCA include:

  • aching and soreness in and around the temples
  • jaw muscle pain while eating
  • vision loss
  • polymyalgia ,an aching and stiffness in both shoulders and thighs
  • accompanied by weight loss, night sweats, anemia, tiredness

Spearheading the rheumatology department's work with GCA is Professor Bhaskar Dasgupta. He has developed a fast-track pathway which ensures rapid specialist review and treatment of patients with suspected GCA.

Professor Dasgupta was quick to point out how critical swift treatment is: "We now realise that if we are to avoid irreversible sight loss, as a result of GCA, it needs to be treated with as much urgency as the warning signs of stroke or heart attack."

Another major aspect of Professor Dasgupta's work is education and awarenes and he wants to ensure early recognition of GCA becomes enshrined in GP training and education.

Professor Dasgupta added: "It's like the 'Act FAST' stroke campaign which raises public and professional awareness of early stroke prevention. The stroke pathway uses the slogan 'Time is Brain' but we are using the slogan 'Time is Sight'. If you can get people on to treatment quickly, you can prevent sight loss."

One such patient who was fortunate to be diagnosed early and successfully treated, was Roger Keay, 77, from Thorpe Bay, who also features in the BBC episode.

Roger said: "I asked Professor Dasgupta if I will go blind eventually because of GCA and he said '100% guaranteed that we have stopped the problem'. I've lost some field of vision but it's not a problem, I still drive, play golf, ride my bike. I'm still doing everything I used to. If it wasn't for this treatment I would now be blind."

Episode 3 ofTrust Me I'm A Doctor,featuring Southend Hospital, airs on BBC2 at 8pm on Wednesday 15 February.