I have been practicing as a primary care Optometrist in Phoenix, Arizona for ten years. Early on in my career, a trend became very apparent: the one condition that I was seeing the most, was also the condition patients were experiencing relief from the least, but certainly not due to lack of effort on the part of my colleagues or myself.
I have always had a soft spot for people who fall through the cracks or for things that have been chalked up as "lost causes." Hearing people speak in defeat about anything in their lives actually, drives me bonkers. I have this philosophy that as long as you’ve still got breath in your lungs, there’s always hope for change, room for improvement, and opportunity to heal. I realized as I started treating these patients and managing their cases, that I may be one of few people in their lives that believes in this philosophy.
In school we were taught that patients with Dry Eye often have:
- Terrible symptoms, but no signs of the condition, OR
- Terrible signs of the condition manifesting, but no symptoms.
Given this to be the frequent conclusion of the typical screening methods used during a Comprehensive Eye Exam, one might see how patients and their doctors alike might be frustrated.
Furthermore, from the average bystander's perspective, Dry Eye may seem trivial, especially when considering the big picture of everything that could go wrong with one's eyes or vision, but to those who suffer from it, Dry Eye is anything but. These patients often describe remarkable discomfort, embarrassing redness and watering, and significant fluctuations in vision--symptoms that only worsen with time if left untreated. In some cases, symptoms can become severe enough to cause the individual to need to pause momentarily or even stop certain tasks altogether. Recent studies suggest significant loss of time, income, and productivity in the workplace due to Dry Eye. In addition to disruptions in patterns of daily life, Dry Eye has also been shown to diminish perceived clarity of surgical outcomes in certain procedures, particularly in refractive surgeries such as LASIK and PRK, as well as with cataract surgery.
Driven by these frustrations and observations, I started digging a little deeper in each case history and investigating a little further in clinical testing and began to compile several additional questions to ask and tests to perform that became helpful in determining the actual reasons for what patients were experiencing. The lists of questions and tests grew and organically became what I now call my Comprehensive Dry Eye Evaluation, the first appointment for all new patients at IndividualEyes Dry Eye Center.
Treatment methods, strategies, and protocols have been employed, refined, and consistently challenged over the years to create the management plans we have today. But, the ultimate secrete that has proved to be the most effective medicine for these patients was not just creating a treatment plan with the best and newest products, or diagnoses with the most top-of-the-line equipment, but instead, giving these patients an opportunity to feel heard, to gain a better understanding of what was going on with their eyes and why, and to be reassured in the process.