A male doctor talking to a woman.

A Doctor Who Listens

Since being diagnosed with macular degeneration in 2014 and with chronic dry eye three years ago, I have frequently experienced frustration with my doctors. Far too often I feel like my various doctors see me as a tiny puzzle piece without ever viewing me as a whole person.

My diagnosis

My chronic dry eye disease was diagnosed during my annual dilated eye exam. I was experiencing increased blurring and thought it was related to my dry age related macular degeneration (ARMD).

The optometrist examined me and explained that I have dry eye disease related to the meibomian glands being clogged up. He told me to use warm moist heat on my eyes. He also prescribed Restasis that unfortunately did not help my condition at all.

A frustrating answer

Since my diagnosis, I have struggled to manage both the ARMD and chronic dry eye. During my regular checkup, I described my dry eye symptoms to the retinal specialist in the hope he might suggest something to relieve the symptoms. His reply was, “See your optometrist; I know nothing about dry eye disease.”

His answer frustrated me, since I knew he had all the training of an ophthalmologist, as well as the additional training to be a retinal specialist. The truth was he didn’t want to be bothered to do more than care for the macular degeneration. As a retired nurse, I know that mindset does not lead to good health outcomes.

Becoming an advocate for my health

Living with multiple chronic conditions, I have had to learn to be an advocate for my own healthcare. From my experience working as a nurse, I learned it is important for the patient to take charge of their own healthcare.

As an advocate for my health, I also have responsibilities. I need to be prepared for my visit to the doctor. I like to write down any questions or concerns that I want to share with the doctor. If I don’t understand something my doctor says, I speak up. You cannot follow a treatment plan you do not understand.

Finding a doctor who listens

At my last visit, I saw a new retinal specialist, who happened to be a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO). The DO has a unique perspective treating the whole person. I explained how the dry eye disease was causing increased blurring and even double vision at times.

He told me to continue using lubricant drops during the daytime but to use an eye ointment at bedtime. I was waking up in the middle of the night, and my eyes were so dry I could hardly open them. Having to reapply drops disrupted my sleep. The ointment provides relief throughout the night, keeping me much more comfortable.

I told him that the ointment was very expensive and came in a very small tube. He wrote me a prescription for an ointment in a much larger tube that was covered by my drug plan. The OTC lubricant drops are expensive and not covered by insurance. I left his office very happy that I had found a doctor who would take the time to listen. When a doctor doesn’t take the time to listen to a patient, it hurts the patient and negatively impacts their health.

Feeling more optimistic

I am feeling more optimistic about my eye health since finding a doctor who will listen and see me as a whole person. To learn more about advocating for your healthcare you can read an article I wrote “How to Get the Healthcare You Deserve.”

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