Testing Times

Health Matters

Testing Times

    OK, look out..........

    This doesn't make such pleasant reading – but please do.


    I've had two sets of further tests, booked by my Diabetic Nurse. I wasn't looking forward to either of them.


    The first was a retinal scan.


    This will basically tell me if my eyes are in trouble.

    They are screening for Diabetic Retinopathy

    It was booked for a local NHS (UK National Health Service) facility, one of quite a few I had no idea existed. It's a clean, new facility that had the feel of a new hotel's lobby.

    I had to take my wife along because I wouldn't be able to drive for a few hours following the test.

    I was interviewed by a (very large) lady who confirmed my age, address and so on.

    Any problems with vision? Glaucoma? How's your general health, apart from T2?

    I was then asked to put on my distance glasses and read decreasing-size letters on a chart about three metres away – much like the regular optician.

    Bottom (smallest type) line clear as a bell – good.

   'Right,' she said, 'now I'm going to put some drops in your eyes to open up the pupils so my colleague can take photographs of your retinas.

     'This may sting a little for a while.' IT DID!

     'OK, go and sit in the lobby and we'll call you back in about 20 minutes.' She said.

     The stinging only lasted only a couple of minutes but as I waited my vision blurred somewhat as my pupils dilated.

    Called back, I sat on a chair in front of a machine with my chin on a rest. OK, said the technician, open your eyes wide.

    FLASH – very bright in the right eye. FLASH again.

    Then two in the left eye.

    'Right, these images will be sent off for analysis and both you and your doctor will be sent the results by post.'

    My eyes returned to normal within a couple of hours.


    The second appointment was with the podiatrist.

    Foot problems are common with diabetes, particularly if you don't look after them.

   I've had chilly feet for years also some cramping in my calves and discomfort in my hips, bum and thighs, so I needed to get this checked out – not that I was looking forward to it. 

    Another new NHS facility and a nice young lady.

    She said my feet were pretty much OK but there is some evidence of circulation problems in my lower legs and feet. Hairless lower legs and weak pulse.

    She refers me to a Vascular Surgeon, 'to be on the safe side'. Not so good.

    A week later I see a Vascular Consultant in the main hospital out-patients department.

    I always feel worse when I come to these places. People in wheel-chairs, on trolleys, wrapped in blankets. Coughing and wheezing between frightened silences.

    He examines me by testing pulses in my feet, legs and groin and pronounces that I appear to have PAD, Peripheral Arterial Disease.

    This may be linked, at least in part, to my diabetes.

    He will book me in for both an Ultrasound scan and Angiogram.

    He prescribes a small daily Aspirin and a Statin.

    He tells me that it looks like I have a (or some!) partial blockages in my blood vessels.

   Depending on the scan results and severity of the problem(s), treatment options include an angioplasty, stent or possible bypass.

    An angioplasty is where a small balloon is shoved up the blood vessel and inflated to widen it.

    A stent is a small metal or plastic tube inserted into the blood vessel to hold it open.

    A bypass is, well, a bypass.

    Bit grim all this!

    My Ultrasound is on abdomen, legs and feet. A procedure similar to that given to pregnant women.

    Of course, being an idiot, I ask how the baby is doing.

     'Just trapped wind, I think,' replies the technician, smiling. (Probably not for the first time)

    Half an hour, some chilly gel and it's all over.

    The results will be emailed to the vascular specialist.

    The Angiogram in not so nice. Testing aorta, abdomen, legs and feet.

    Down in the bowels of the hospital, in the X-ray department I'm among what look like some pretty poorly people.

    I'm robed in one of those bloody hospital gowns and told lie on a bed.

    A cannula is inserted in my arm.

    There's not much preamble in the X-Ray department, It's a conveyor belt of sickies.

    A pump is attached to the cannula and I have to lie flat with my hands above my head.

    Twice, on the moving bed, I'm sent through a giant vertical doughnut (with flashing lights on it).

    Then iodine is pumped into me through the cannula.

    I was fore-warned, but as my whole body feels a hot flush as the iodine rushes round (far quicker than I expected).        It's pretty nasty actually and claustrophobic.

    Not pleasant at all.

   Two more trips through the doughnut and I get dressed and bugger off home!

    Now I wait till 5th January to see the specialist again. Happy Christmas.


    Did you read this far? I hope so.

    Why have I told you all this??

    Because there's every chance, if you're at risk, you can probably avoid it!


    The retinal scan came back clear – thank goodness.

    The letter stated, “Everything appears to be normal for the time being.”

    'For the time being'. Not quite as unequivocal as it might have been, but OK.

    Next: Vascular Follow up