Can an optician spot a potential eye problem with GCA?

My Consultant Rheumatologist said that an Optician could check my eyes for any potential problems. Is this correct and what should they look for? I have GCA and am currently on 12.5 mg Prednisolone plus other medication.I am pretty sure that my eyes are OK although sometimes there is a slightly muzzy feeling which I blame on the pred.

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  • Yes it is correct. If you go to a good optician who has all the examination equipment (not just the ones who only dispense spectacles) they can look at the back of your eye and see the retina and the place where the optic nerve enters the back of the eye. If the GCA is affecting the blood supply to the optic nerve the optic nerve looks different from what it should do. It is quicker and easier than getting referred to an eye specialist which is unnecessary unless anything is found.

    If you are on pred at high doses or for a long time you need to get your eyes checked every year by an optician anyway - pred can cause diabetes, cataracts to develop/develop faster and can also raise the pressure in the eye in the same way as glaucoma. The optician can see indications of the first, see the second and measure the third to make sure you are OK and recommend treatment if it isn't. Putting off an eye test because you have to pay for it is a false economy - the optician will pick things up that neither you nor a doctor can see! Just a warning - if you go to an optician they may need to use drops in your eyes to dilate the pupil which would mean you shouldn't drive afterwards so go by public transport or get a friend to take you.

    You are right that pred can cause a bit of blurriness that is different from the sort you experience in GCA. I find I need my specs at different positions on my nose at times but it isn't worth getting new ones! But checking with an optician is always a good idea.

  • Many thanks. PMRpro. Just the info. I needed!

  • When you have GCA, you are entitled to a free eye check-up every six months. The Optician you use has a form which they fill in with all your details. I used Spec Savers as most of their Opthamologists are trained in Belfast and they all have the latest equipment for eye tests. I did not tell them I had GCA when I first visited, but they spotted it immediately and where going to refer me straightaway to A&E. I then came clean.

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