A WOMAN who was told her symptoms were just hay fever was shocked when a trip to Boots revealed the truth.
Karolina Barnes, 43, from Kent, suffered from itchy eyes and headaches like many people with plant allergies.
She was told by her GP that she probably “had hay fever all year round,” The Telegraph reported.
“Even when I only had a headache, they still said it was hay fever,” Karolina said.
But things escalated in 2007, when Karolina felt something was in her eye and she was unsteady on her feet.
She said: “I felt like there was something in my right eye, like a constant eyelash.
“Then one day, I was picking up my oldest daughter, Natalie, from school and I tripped. There was one step I just hadn’t seen.
“When I got home and took off my glasses, I realized my vision was very blurry.”
Karolina, a brand strategist, was pregnant with her second child and her symptoms began to worsen eight weeks later.
She claims her GP told her it was “just hormonal” and would “rest”.
“He sent me away,” Karolina recalled.
A month later, when the mother of two’s eyesight deteriorated, she went to her local Boots for an eye test.
She said: “The optician examined me and said ‘you need to go to the hospital right away’.”
The eye expert had found something of concern and at the hospital Karolina was told she might have MS.
She wasn’t called for an MRI until a month later, and that’s when the seriousness of her condition became apparent.
A meningioma tumor of about 6 cm was found in her brain.
Meningiomas are tumors that start in the layers of tissue (meninges) that cover the brain and spinal cord, explains Cancer Research UK.
If my doctor had picked it up right away, maybe it wouldn’t have happened
Karolina says doctors believe her brain tumor has been growing since she was a teenager, but pregnancy hormones were causing a spurt.
Surgery was not possible because the tumor was around her optic nerve, which is essential for vision.
But Karolina lost sight in her eye and blames the delay in her diagnosis.
She said: “I lost six weeks in which they could have saved my sight. But it was too late. I’m blind in that eye now.
“My GP sent me a letter of apology, but I was so angry. And the more I talked to people, the more I realized I’m not the only one who’s been misdiagnosed.”
What are the symptoms of a brain tumor?
- epileptic attacks
- Vision or speech problems
- Behavioral changes
Health gap between men and women
Karolina was one of many women who have fallen victim to the gender health gap.
She said: “I know GPs are under pressure, but when women bring up problems, we are put off. It’s like ‘you’re too emotional or too dramatic, don’t worry’.
“I try to lead a normal life, but in the end I live with ‘wait and see’. It’s stressful. If my doctor had picked it up right away, maybe it wouldn’t have been.”
It is not uncommon for women to feel unheard by doctors, preventing them from accessing the right care.
The government is taking action to close the gap between health care for men and women in the UK.
According to the Vision For The Women’s Health Strategy For England, physicians will be pushed harder to address gender-specific health issues, including menopause, cancer and endometriosis.
The call for evidence found that 84 percent of women reported incidents where health care professionals were not listened to.
Health Minister Maria Caulfield said: “There are deep-seated issues that we need to address to ensure women receive the same standard of care as men. This strategy is the start of that journey.”
Women in the UK are concerned that they are not getting the right medical advice from doctors, and 22 percent believe this is due to their gender.
About 49 percent of women think this is because doctors do not listen to them, according to research by the digital healthcare platform Livi.
The research results are based on previous studies of the past decade.
In 2016, the Brain Tumor Charity warned that women were twice as likely as men to wait more than a year to receive a diagnosis than men.
Women were dismissed as attention-seeking, “tired,” prescribed antibiotics, told they were having panic attacks, or simply ignored.
A Leeds University study found that women were 59 percent more likely to be misdiagnosed after a heart attack than men, and more than double the death rate in the 30 days after a heart attack.
Their symptoms were previously attributed to problems such as indigestion or neck pain.
Research from the University of Cambridge found that women need to make many more doctor’s appointments before being diagnosed with bladder or kidney cancer.
American research has shown that women have to wait longer for painkillers if they are rushed to the hospital.
Part of the problem is a lack of scientific understanding of how circumstances affect women differently than men, as a result of historical research that used men in research.
An important example of the gaps in women’s health knowledge is endometriosis, a painful condition in which tissues that resemble the lining of the uterus grow elsewhere in the body but behave in the same way.
The average time it takes a woman to receive a diagnosis for the condition is seven to eight years.
Four in ten women have to see their GP ten times before being referred to a specialist.
The condition affects one in ten women, making it as common as diabetes in the UK.
The Women’s Health Strategy is committed to reducing waiting times for women’s health, including for the diagnosis of endometriosis.
It will strive to break “taboo topics” on women’s health, such as topics that affect their reproductive health.
In addition to better training for doctors, the strategy will expand health centers and education in schools and make IVF more accessible.