Dealing with Anxiety over Medical Procedures
I always get a little anxious over medical procedures, and even more so when they deal with my eyes. Do you?
Our eyes are so delicate and precious, so I worry about possible pain or damage to them. Most of the time, my fearful anticipation of what will happen is worse than the procedure itself.
With familiarity comes less stress
Of course, as I’ve gotten older and experienced more than just routine sick visits, my worry about medical procedures has lessened. There is something about delivering a baby that makes you care very little about getting a steroid shot in the hip. A root canal puts a simple filling in perspective. With familiarity comes less stress. The same has been true for procedures involving my eyes.
Motivation is key as well. A pivotal moment in my daughter’s life demonstrates this. Like most kids, she was deathly afraid of needles, but I remember her at age seven, feeling so miserable with strep throat that she actually welcomed an injection – anything to help her feel better.
Likewise, the pain that I’ve felt with my dry eyes has been motivation to do whatever is necessary to improve my situation. Discomfort has outweighed any fear of the unknown.
But the fear's still there
Still, fear does creep in. The first eye doctor I saw for my dry eye issues inserted punctal plugs into my lower tear ducts. At first, he put in some temporary ones. This was an easy procedure.
The second time, the plugs were more permanent and slightly larger, so he had trouble getting them in. I tried to remain calm and take deep breaths, but I had an uncontrollable vasovagal response, and I passed out immediately after the procedure. Since then, I’ve been keenly aware of trying to remain calm during different eye procedures.
What helps calm me
I eventually found a dry eye specialist who has helped me, and building trust with a doctor over time has helped me be less anxious as well. He has performed multiple intense pulsed light procedures and meibomian gland expressions on my eyes. Before my first IPL treatment, I was very nervous, and I asked a lot of questions. After experiencing several rounds of IPL now, I know what to expect, and I know that my doctor knows what he is doing. Now, the intense pulsed light procedures are routine, and they feel like no big deal.
He has also performed two conjunctivochalasis surgeries on my eyes. I have to admit that the idea of eye surgery really scared me. Imagining a speculum holding my eyes open and a needle being inserted into my eyes to numb the area made my blood pressure boil.
In preparing for my first surgery, I just had to put the mental image out of my mind, breath, and take my mind elsewhere. The procedure was not as painful as I anticipated, so when the time came for my second surgery, I was a lot less stressed.
Feeling more confident
Now I feel like I could handle just about any eye procedure with steady composure. Experience over time, motivation for improvement, and trust in my doctor have all given me more confidence and ease in approaching different treatments.
Do you experience anxiety over your eye procedures? If so, how do you handle it?
Have you taken the 2023 Chronic Dry Eye In America survey?