Article Date: 12/1/2008

Give Me Boring Any Day
Patient's Perspective

Give Me Boring Any Day

Some patients appreciate a doctor who diagnoses and treats with calm confidence.

By Brenda McCardle, as told to Erin Murphy, Contributing Editor

TO SOME PEOPLE, a trip to the doctor seems horribly boring, but that's how I like it. I don't want drama. Spare me the comedy. And God knows I don't want a scene from "Grey's Anatomy." When it comes to my eye doctor, excitement is the last thing on my mind.

My mother was blinded by glaucoma. Starting in my 40s, I went for an eye exam every 2 years, waiting for the day when my doctor would tell me I had the same disease. He was my mother's doctor as well, so he was always watching for the signs. And 5 years ago, at age 60, when the test results looked positive, I was relieved to receive no dramatic announcement or apology. There are times when calm pragmatism feels just right.

Not Repeating History

My mother, who's now deceased, approached her health very differently than I do. Doctors scared her. She delayed visiting an eye doctor until she could barely see, at which point the glaucoma was at an advanced stage. There was very little the doctor could do to preserve her remaining vision.

My doctor and I have both done our parts to make sure the same thing doesn't happen to me. I've always taken care of myself, used nutritional supplements and had regular eye exams. My doctor watched my intraocular pressure carefully and made me aware of where I stood in relation to target numbers.

My pressure increased very slowly over the years, eventually staying at 22 mmHg for quite a while. When it inched up toward 23 and 24, my doctor told me, "Your pressure is above normal, so you'll need to start using drops."

He didn't scare me, and he certainly didn't suggest that I might go blind, although we both know it may happen. This has been his general approach all along. He's conservative, but very conscientious and on top of both my case and the latest developments, including drug treatments.

Editor's note: Periodically, new OD will explore eye care from the patient's perspective. Whether you have a special interest in contact lenses, low vision or pediatric care, you'll find out from real patients what attracts them to a practice and keeps them coming back.

Inspiring Confidence

When I was first diagnosed, I visited the doctor every 2 months, but we've switched to every 3 months now that I'm on the right medication. It took time for the doctor to find the right drug for me, but his dedication and persistence made me feel very confident in him.

I started with latanoprost (Xalatan, Pfizer Inc.) once a day, but that didn't control the pressure. Next, I tried a few other drops twice a day, but my pressure was still 23 or 24. I took dorzolamide and timolol (Cosopt, Merck & Co. Inc.) twice a day, and that got my pressure to 22 or 23. Finally, the doctor discontinued that drug and started me on brimonidine and timolol (Combigan, Allergan) twice a day, which is keeping my pressure at 22.

My glaucoma seems to be under control. I know that it may progress in the future, and I've seen firsthand how terrible glaucoma is when it progresses unchecked. But I have confidence in my doctor. He's keeping a close watch on my eyes and keeping up to date on the newest developments in glaucoma medications. He's not flashy, but then this isn't a dramatic emergency room trauma. It's a long-term, progressive disease that requires consistent, close attention. And I don't need hugs or handholding — I just need to sleep easy knowing that my doctor is preserving my vision. nOD

Optometric Management, Issue: December 2008