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Doc Martin diagnoses Giant Cell Arteritis

Doc Martin



The charity which works to reduce needless sight loss through the auto-immune condition Giant Cell Arteritis has welcomed the latest episode of Doc Martin which features the illness.



An estimated 2,000 people a year lose all or some of their sight through GCA because of delays in diagnosis and treatment of the condition.  Doctors can sometimes mistake the condition for the pains of old age and may not realise that treatment, in the form of a large dose of steroids, must be given very quickly. Sight can be lost within hours and the damage is both irreversible and needless.

In this week’s episode, Doc Martin spots there is something seriously amiss with his Aunt Ruth when he meets her down at the chemist’s buying some painkillers. He insists that she comes to his surgery, where after arranging blood tests and other checks, he diagnoses Polymyalgia Rheumatica and Giant Cell Arteritis. Aunt Ruth is given a large dose of steroids and will continue to take steroids, probably over a period of about three years, to control the condition and protect her sight.

“ For the elderly people who lose their sight, the tragedy is unbearable when they realise they need not have gone blind, “ said Penny Denby chair of PMRGCAuk. “It’s vital that the symptoms of this condition be highlighted to both doctors and patients and we are really grateful to Doc Martin.”

Philippa Braithwaite, Producer of Doc Martin said, “"We are very pleased that in this episode of Doc Martin we have helped to highlight the symptoms and diagnosis of Polymyalgia rheumatica and Giant Cell Arteritis.  Although we are a comedy drama we do meticulous research on the medical conditions we choose for our ‘story of the week’ so we are always thrilled to receive positive feedback from sufferers and organisations who represent them.  In fact during the filming of this episode our Art Director recognised the symptoms in her own mother and managed to send her to the doctor early thus potentially saving her sight.  It is a serious illness which can be avoided with early diagnosis and we are pleased we got this across in the episode."

GCA is an auto-immune condition which affects mainly people over 65, although it can develop among people in their 50s. Symptoms include headaches, severe pain and tenderness of the scalp, pain and stiffness in the jaw, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, weight loss and loss of vision. If treatment is not given in time, the inflamed artery on the side of the head can press on the optic nerve causing irreversible blindness.

“ Aunt Ruth was lucky her nephew Doc Martin was so quick to spot the problem. We hope this storyline will alert the public to the condition and need for fast action,” said Penny Denby.

For more information about the condition, go to the charity website at The charity also runs a helpline 0300 1115090

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