Sue Chander

Sue Chander

British woman, victim of giant cell arteritis (GCA).
Country: Great Britain

Content:
  1. Сью Чендлер: A Life Affected by Giant Cell Arteritis
  2. Understanding Giant Cell Arteritis
  3. The Need for Early Detection

Сью Чендлер: A Life Affected by Giant Cell Arteritis

Briton, victim of giant cell arteritis (GCA). Diseases that leave a person disabled are terrifying, especially when they can be easily treated if diagnosed in a timely manner. In September 2010, Sue Chandler woke up with pain in her shoulders and arms. Paying no particular attention to this pain, she assumed it was due to overexertion in her garden. Unfortunately, after 19 months, Chandler regretted her negligence towards her own health. The number of symptoms gradually increased, and although Sue tried consulting doctors, they could not identify the cause of her suffering. Eventually, a new symptom appeared that could not be ignored - overnight, Sue lost vision in her right eye. Unfortunately, her vision did not return. As a former Ministry of Defense employee, Sue described the loss of vision in her right eye as if a thick gray curtain had been thrown over it; she could see light through it but could only dream of shapes. Eventually, Sue was diagnosed with giant cell arteritis. While this disease can be easily treated, it is also easily missed. If left undiagnosed, the consequences can be catastrophic, with vision loss being one of the most common side effects of GCA. Each year, approximately 2,400 elderly individuals experience vision problems due to GCA. It is possible that Sue's vision could have been saved, but unfortunately, doctors were unable to identify the disease in time. They blamed more common diagnoses, such as age-related pain in the back and shoulders, toothache, pinched nerves, or frozen shoulder. It is worth noting that certain symptoms should have raised more concern, such as jaw pain and an overly sensitive scalp, which are practically classic symptoms of GCA. Even when Sue experienced vision problems, the doctor failed to connect the dots. It was only after her vision was completely gone that the correct diagnosis was finally made. An ophthalmologist immediately understood what had caused her blindness, and high doses of the steroid prednisolone were prescribed. The next two weeks were extremely difficult for Sue, but her second eye was ultimately saved. Just over a year later, Sue faced another blow when her husband Ron passed away from liver cancer. She can now admit that the last five years of her life have been hellish, but she refuses to wallow in self-pity. Gathering her strength, Sue has firmly decided not to dwell on the past. Of course, there are psychological scars that will never heal - she will never fully trust doctors again. She appreciates that her therapist took her mistake seriously, but this does not change the fact that the mistake has cost Sue a severe deterioration in her quality of life.

Sue Chander

Understanding Giant Cell Arteritis

The exact cause of GCA is still unknown. Essentially, it is an autoimmune disease, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body itself. In the case of GCA, these attacks cause inflammation in the walls of the arteries, particularly those supplying blood to the skull. This impairs blood flow, leading to a range of unpleasant consequences such as headaches, scalp tenderness, and jaw pain. Optic nerves are particularly vulnerable to such damage. Once blood supply to the brain is compromised, the nerves begin to die rapidly, resulting in blindness, for which there is unfortunately no cure. GCA primarily affects individuals over 70 years old. Sudden vision loss not only complicates the lives of those affected but also leads to severe depression. In some cases, it even leads to suicide. People who previously led independent lives now rely heavily on the assistance of others, which is a significant blow in itself. GCA victims are unable to drive or even go for walks, and their mental health deteriorates. It also becomes extremely challenging for their relatives, who now have to dedicate a significant amount of time and effort to caring for their elderly family members.

The Need for Early Detection

The most frightening aspect of Sue's story and others like hers is that GCA is easily treatable. A good dose of affordable steroids, administered at the right time, can completely overcome GCA. Unfortunately, GCA often goes unnoticed until significant damage has been done and it becomes irreversible. Specialists within the British healthcare system now recognize the urgent need to implement a new early detection system for such dangerous diseases. There is currently a scandal surrounding the British National Health Service (NHS) due to the late detection of GCA, resulting in over 2,000 people losing their vision each year. Theoretically, a new early detection system would not only help individuals preserve their vision but also save the healthcare system a significant amount of money. However, developing and implementing such a system will require a considerable amount of time and resources. It is worth mentioning that progress has already been made in the fight against GCA. Recent reforms have reduced the percentage of people losing their vision to GCA from 37% to 9%. British medical professionals underwent a series of express courses on timely detection and prevention of this malignant disease. Former Member of Parliament for North Swindon, Lord Wills, has been particularly active in promoting GCA prevention programs, demanding new legislation on GCA from the government for the past four years.

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