Article Date: 11/1/2010

A Hard Line Against Dryness and Pain

A Hard Line Against Dryness and Pain

Does your practice educate and treat all patients who suffer from dry eye?

Jim Thomas, Editorial Director

At the recent Vision Expo event in Las Vegas, a doctor told me of the change in his views on dry eye. "Just a few years ago, I would say, ‘it's really not an issue,'" he said. "I never talked to patients about dry eye, unless they complained. And there were rarely complaints, even among contact lens wearers. Today, I can't tell you how many loyal patients I've created by educating all my patients about dry eye."

When I first started reporting on eyecare issues, it wasn't hard to find an "expert" who claimed that dry eye wasn't really a problem — rather it interfered with the treatment of "more serious" conditions.

Is there always a gain in pain?

Our views on the levels of pain and discomfort that patients should accept has shifted. (Did anyone else growing up have a dentist who reminded them of Laurence Olivier's character, Dr. Szell, in "Marathon Man"?) I know of one surgeon who used to say, "If it doesn't hurt, it doesn't work."

Of course, with some procedures, tests and treatments, there's no way to avoid some level of pain. (And yes, I joke about it, but I appreciate the doctor's honesty when it comes to discussing my pain.)

However, today's dry eye research shows us that there's value in addressing even mild discomfort. (I'll mention here that our coverage of dry eye and ocular surface disease begins on "A Typical Day…") For example, disruptions in the tear film can affect vision, so there's an opportunity to improve visual acuity in dry eye patients, especially those who require vision correction.

In addition, many patients suffer from dry eye due to work-related computer use. So when you treat this patient effectively, you not only make him more comfortable, you help him improve his productivity. That's a benefit that both the patient and employer can appreciate.

There's also an opportunity to treat dry eye pre- and post operatively in refractive surgery patients. Think in terms of the patient's perspective: the fewer complications, pains and discomforts post-op, the more successful the surgery.

It all happens in your practice

None of these results can happen unless you and your staff market dry eye services to your patients and the community. And remember: You'll find patients who rarely complain about pain, especially those who were treated by "old school" doctors. I'd recommend you give them a larger dose of patient education. If they're like me, they'll appreciate it. OM

Optometric Management, Issue: November 2010