Everyone wants to be the best at something, right? And while we can’t all be the next Usain Bolt or Albert Einstein, with dedication and intense training, there is one thing you could possibly become the best at – being a great eye care patient. Not only will being a switched-on, savvy patient help the examination run smoothly for your eye care practitioner, it can also benefit you and let you get the most out of your consultation. Remember that your eye doctor is there to not only address the concerns you bring up but also to detect and manage any problems you might not even know you had. This encompasses both issues with your vision and your ocular health. Here are some things to think about.
Your eye doctor is here to help you
While eye doctors don’t get the same rap as dentists, some people may get the chills just thinking about attending any sort of medical appointment, which can bring on various emotions. These emotions can range from fear to anxiety to aggression, which can make it very difficult for the practitioner to get any useful information out of an uncooperative patient. The eyes are also an extremely sensitive part of the body, with a density of nerve endings (which detect touch and pain) in the cornea of up to six hundred times more than skin and up to forty times more than tooth pulp. This sensitivity in itself can make even the most manly of men flinch when anything comes remotely close to the eye, a primitive reflex designed to protect such a delicate organ. With these apprehensions and negative emotions, it can be difficult to cooperate with the eye doctor’s questioning or advice but remember – your eye doctor is there to help you protect your sight, so responding calmly and taking his or her directions are in your best interests, even if every corneal cell is screaming at you to get outta there.
Know your medications, eye-related history, and family eye history
This is most important when visiting a new eye doctor for the first time as this information can affect the way he or she manages any findings that may come out of the eye exam. Be sure to fess up all medications you take on a regular basis as many systemic medications can impact the eye and vision. For example, Viagra (for erectile dysfunction) has been known to affect color vision, causing a blue tinge; Plaquenil (used to treat malaria and various autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis) can accumulate in the macular tissues of the eye and cause a decrease in central vision; beta-blocker medications for hypertension, such as Tenormin, can negatively interact with beta-blocking glaucoma eye drops. If you currently use eye drops for any reason, it’s mighty useful for your doctor to know exactly what they are. This includes even off-the-shelf lubricant drops for dry eye as not all such tear supplements are created equal and your doctor may be able to recommend a more effective drop if they know what you’ve been using in the past.
Being aware of any previous eye injuries, infections, or procedures done around the eye area helps your doctor form a better picture of what’s been going on with your eyes and vision. Knowing that you’ve had a history of a lazy right eye with unsuccessful treatment will mean your doctor expects to find your right eye doesn’t see as well as the left. Knowing that you have a history of contact lens-related eye infections may affect the type of lens your doctor recommends and also the type of cleaning regime. Knowing that for the last ten years your eyelids swell shut from hay fever every spring means that as we approach the next spring your doctor can start you early on antihistamine eye drops so that you can still see where you’re walking when that first particle of pollen hits. Knowing that you’ve had a history of carcinomas removed from around the eyelids means your doctor will be extra vigilant when looking at any other suspicious lesions but also will expect to see some unusual areas of skin where previous cancers had been removed.
Many eye diseases have a genetic link, which include the common conditions of glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. This doesn’t mean that if great aunt Edna had glaucoma that you are doomed to suffer the same fate, but it certainly is a risk factor and can affect the way the eye doctor manages their findings. Some eye conditions are inevitable with age, such as cataracts or droopy eyelid skin, but diseases such as age-related macular degeneration should not be dismissed as a normal part of aging and are important to disclose to your eye doctor. Even something as innocent as color blindness or short-sightedness in the family is a good idea to mention as these conditions can have a great impact particularly on children’s vision and development.
Ask questions and take responsibility for your vision and eye health.
Doctors can only do so much. They can recommend lifestyle changes, dietary changes, and eye drops, but they can’t put your sunglasses on for you, spoon-feed you antioxidants, or be by your side to pour your eye drops four times a day. Non-compliance (patients disregarding or not following a doctor’s advice) is as high as 75% in eye care and includes patients failing to fill a script from the eye doctor or ceasing their medications against the doctor’s recommendations. Admittedly, part the responsibility of encouraging good compliance falls on the shoulders of the doctor, such as ensuring the patient has a proper understanding of both the problem and the treatment, and finding a solution that causes the least burden to the patient; but ultimately, the person responsible for remembering to take those eye drops is the patient. If something is not making sense during the consultation, such as a doctor’s explanation of your visual issues, be sure to ask questions until you are confident you have a grasp of what is happening. This will help you to understand the reasoning behind why your eye drops should be four times a day though it may be tempting to use them, say, only twice a day. Taking initiative to ask further questions will allow the doctor to fill gaps in your knowledge that he or she may not have realized were there and allows you to better comprehend the state of your vision and eye health.
It is a good idea to stick with the recommended review schedule, whether this is every six months, annually, or every two years. Similar to servicing your car regularly, routine eye tests are often able to catch small problems before they become big problems. Eye diseases such as glaucoma often begin with no noticeable subjective changes to the vision until quite a significant amount of damage has occurred but, in all cases, the best outcomes are achieved by early detection and treatment.
Remember that your eye doctor is the best positioned to save your sight; Doctor Google can be useful at times but reading up on eye problems online is not the same as having a trained professional assessing your eye with a microscope. If something feels not quite right with your vision or your eyes, don’t just ask your neighbor – visit an eye doctor! (Unless your neighbor happens to be an eye doctor, which would be quite convenient).
So, there you have it – a few morsels for consideration the next time you pay a visit to the eye doctor. You might just walk out with a medal for being the best patient ever!
Density and organization or free nerve endings in the cornea. https://journals.lww.com/pain/Abstract/1982/10000/Density_and_organization_of_free_nerve_endings_in.4.aspx
Viagra (sildenafil citrate) and ophthalmology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12207947
The Compliance Conundrum. https://www.reviewofoptometry.com/article/the-compliance-conundrum
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