The Smart Detective
Clear up the mystery of medicalese
for your patients.
By Jack Runniger, O.D.
The police chief was interviewing three applicants for a detective position. To test their skills in recognizing suspects, he showed the first applicant a photo for five seconds and then turned it over.
"This is your suspect. How would you recognize him?"
"That's easy," he responded. "He only has one eye."
"You idiot! That's because the photo only shows his profile," fumed the chief. He repeated the process with the second applicant.
ILLUSTRATION BY AMY WUMMER
"He'd be easy to recognize. He only has one ear," this one replied.
"What's the matter with you guys," yelled the chief. "Of course the picture shows only one eye and one ear -- it's a profile shot!"
"The suspect is wearing contact lenses," opined the third applicant after studying the photo intently.
"Wow, I can't believe it! The suspect does indeed wear contact lenses. How were you able to make such an astute observation?"
"That's easy," he answered. "He can't wear regular glasses because he only has one eye and one ear."
Not as they seem
As the story shows, things are not always as they appear. Another example of this lies in your patients' possible misinterpretations of healthcare terminology.
cyclitis," you inform a patient. Until you explain what the term means, the patient's resultant thought processes might go something like this:
"Cyclitis?! Sounds like a rash from a bicycle seat. How can he tell what's wrong at that end of my anatomy by examining my eyes?"
"The last eye doctor I went to told me I needed sunglasses because I had photophobia," a new patient, Emma Trope, told me. "I don't understand. What does a fear of having your picture taken have to do with needing sunglasses?"
Patients can easily misinterpret many healthcare terms such as photophobia and cyclitis to have a meaning other than the proper one. Some general healthcare terms and their possible definitions include:
- Barium -- What you do when CPR fails
- Node -- Was aware of
- Fester -- Quicker
- Benign -- What you be after you be eight
Less than crystal clear
Recently I ran across a list of definitions involving terms more specific to eye care and how people can misinterpret them. Dr. Michael Wodis devised them and we ran them in Optometric Management years ago when I was editor. Some of my favorites include:
- Aqueous humor -- Jokes from the Culligan Man
- Optic nerve -- Raising fees twice in the same month
- Rxs -- Our former spouses
- Dilate -- To live long
- IOP -- Doctor wants a specimen
- Peripheral fields -- The acres furthest from the barn
- Positive relative accommodation -- "It'll be fun having the whole family over."
- Negative relative accommodation -- "I wish they'd leave!"
- Fundus -- Give us money
- Extraocular -- Spare prosthesis
- Posterior capsule --Suppository
- Diffraction -- De numerator over de denominator
- Tear film --- Sad movie
- 3:00 and 9:00 staining -- Clothing discoloration from spilled snacks
- Hyaloid -- Opposite of "See ya, Lloyd."
Jack Runniger, our consulting editor, lives in Rome, GA. He's also a past
editor of OM.
Optometric Management, Issue: June 2003