A Sussex resident has revealed how a routine eye test saved her from a potentially fatal brain tumour.
Alicia Littlepage, 18, a recent Chichester College graduate from Bognor Regis, told how she was looking forward to starting a full-time job as a meetings associate at a pharmaceutical company when crippling headaches meant ‘everything changed’.
Alicia said: ‘I had a terrible migraine and my vision began to go funny. On top of that, I started to feel a massive amount of pressure behind my eyes. This went on for four straight weeks. In that time, I went to see my GP twice and even ended up in A&E, where they said it was just a migraine and didn’t treat it as an emergency.”
On the suggestion of her GP, Alicia booked herself in for an eye test at Specsavers in Bognor Regis to learn more about what could be causing her symptoms.
She was seen by optometrist Basir Uddin, who used the state-of-the-art Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) scan to get a detailed look at the back of Alicia’s eyes.
Following the examination, Basir was concerned that Alicia was suffering from papilledema – swelling of the optic nerve – and advised her to seek immediate medical treatment.
Alicia said: “I was planning to go to my GP again after the eye test, thinking that it wouldn’t turn up anything. But when Basir asked if I had been sent to see him in an emergency, I started to realise that this could be quite serious.
“The last thing you expect after you’ve been to the opticians is to be going straight to hospital but, soon after the test, my mum was taking me to Chichester hospital. When I went to A&E before, it took me three hours to be seen but this time I was seen by a doctor within five minutes of getting there.”
An MRI scan revealed a cyst-like matter located on Alicia’s brain, which was causing the build-up of pressure behind her eyes. She was sent straight to University Hospital Southampton for an operation – but, upon arrival, she was greeted with grave news.
“After the doctors had taken a closer look at my scan, they told me that I had a tumour right in the middle of my head, which needed to be treated/operated on immediately,” said Alicia.
“The surgeon said they would need to perform a biopsy and create a ‘window’ to drain the fluid before they could tell whether the tumour was benign or malignant.”
Fortunately for Alicia, further tests revealed the tumour was benign and she was discharged from hospital after two days. She has spent the last month recovering at home and now has to have yearly scans at the hospital to monitor the tumour.
Alicia added: “The surgeon said there is a three per cent chance that the tumour could become malignant and would require radiotherapy to treat. But he added that many people go through the rest of their lives with a benign tumour.”
Despite her ordeal, Alicia says she is now starting to feel better and is aiming to start work at her new company in November, which has held the position for her while she recovers.
She adds she is ‘incredibly grateful’ to Basir for his support and help in identifying her condition, and has sent him a box of chocolates as way of thanks.
Alicia said: ‘Basir was so nice when he saw me and was really professional throughout. If he wasn’t so calm and collected, I may have been in a state.
“My surgeon told me that had I not been seen by my optician, I could have become really ill very quickly. I’m now hoping that by sharing my story, more people will get their eyes checked and it will help to save lives.”
Jonathan West, store director at Specsavers Bognor Regis, said it was ‘relieved to hear that Alicia is on the mend’ and that the store is ‘incredibly proud of the work carried out by Basir’.
“Eye tests are not just for helping you find the right pair of glasses – they can also be used to spot serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and tumours,” he said.
“We would encourage everyone to get their eyes checked on a regular basis to ensure any potential life-changing conditions are caught at an early stage.”
Alicia is sharing her story as Specsavers and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) prepare to launch their campaign aimed at transforming the nation’s eye health, which will emphasise the need for greater awareness about eyecare in the UK and promote prevention of serious eye conditions through education.
To book an eye test visit www.specsavers.co.uk/stores/bognorregis.