A Highland man has spoken of his harrowing battle with a condition which can cause blindness if left untreated.
David Carrott, of Nethy Bridge, has also set up a Highland support group, based in Inverness, to help fellow suffers of Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) and Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR).
GCA results from the immune system attacking the body and a swelling of the temporal artery in the side of the head, narrowing the artery and cutting off blood supply to the eye. It can cause irreversible blindness within days if not treated promptly. PMA affects muscles throughout the body – typically hands, shoulders and thighs.
The 68-year-old suffers from both conditions, and just before Christmas last year he contracted a rare eye infection, uveitis, as a result of these illnesses.
He said: “I ended up in an eye clinic and had to take eye drop steroids.
“It’s had an enormous impact on my life. It was extremely worrying.
“It makes you rethink your life and it certainly makes you stop and think and feel as though you have got a second chance.”
Mr Carrott has been suffering from GCA and PMR since May last year. His symptoms at the time included jaw pain, a sharp headache above his eye and an inability to walk.
He saw a GP in Grantown who took blood tests and referred him to a rheumatologist straight away. He was initially put on a high dose of steroids but is now taking Methotrexate as a replacement.
A fast-track pathway system is currently being used by GPs in Fife to refer patients with suspected GCA – which typically lasts two to three years – to rheumatologists who will see them within a maximum of four days.
Mr Carrott hopes this approach can be adopted by other health boards.
He stressed that the cost of the steriods works out at about £30 a year per person, which he says would save the NHS in the long run from treating blindness.
The Highland support group he runs is operated through the charity Polymyalgia Rheumatica and Giant Cell Arteritis Scotland.
The group meets once a month at the Spectrum Centre in Inverness and the next meeting is on Friday, December 8 at 1.30pm.