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Routine eye test leads to sight-threatening diagnosis for 20-year-old NHS worker

Emelia Jones

A 20-year-old NHS call handler from Rhondda has praised a Specsavers’ optometrist for identifying a sight-threatening condition during a routine eye test.

Emelia Jones was diagnosed with Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) – a rare, chronic condition caused by a build-up of pressure around the brain in February 2023.

Ms Jones had booked a routine eye test at Specsavers Treorchy, after experiencing headaches. She was seen by Anna Rees, a 25-year-old pre-registration optometrist, who identified swelling at the back of her eyes.

An Optical Coherence Tomography(OTC) test was then conducted to gain a better understanding of the issue. An OCT test takes more than 1,000 images of the back of the eye, using the same technology as NASA to measure the effect of space travel on the eye, and layers those 1,000 images to give the optometrist a more detailed view of the eye’s deeper structures.

The test found that Ms Jones had swollen optic discs in both of her eyes – a worrying sign indicating she may have a more severe health condition. She was immediately referred to the Royal Glamorgan Hospital for further tests where she underwent a lumbar puncture and CT scan of her brain.

Ms Jones was later referred to the neurology department and was diagnosed with IIH.

Ms Jones says: ‘I hadn’t been for an eye test since before the pandemic and was experiencing headaches at work, but I didn’t think it was anything too serious. I’m just thankful that Anna picked up the swelling in my eyes and investigated further with the OCT.’

It is sometimes unclear what can cause IIH. It’s a condition that mainly affects women in their 20s and 30s and can be life and sight-threatening if it remains undiagnosed.

Ms Jones added: ‘I’m now on medication that helps bring down the pressure on my spine. It’s still early days, having only being diagnosed a few months ago, but I’m definitely on the road to recovery.

‘This experience has really taught me about the importance of eye care. Since the diagnosis, I’ve recommended to all my friends and colleagues at work to book regular eye tests./

Emma Davies, manager at Specsavers Treorchy, says: ‘We’re really pleased we were able to detect the problem early enough and refer Ms Jones to hospital for further investigations. It crucially highlights the importance of having your eyes tested – at least every two years – as broader health problems can be identified, and we can refer you for further medical treatment if necessary.

‘Our ethos at Specsavers is about ensuring the safety of our patients and providing the best quality care – so we are proud that Anna was able to identify the issue and help Ms Jones get the treatment she needs.’