SEP 2012

EyeWorld is the official news magazine of the American Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgery.

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Page 23 of 103

24 EW NEWS & OPINION September 2012 Eyecare trends surveys called "eye openers" by Michelle Dalton EyeWorld Contributing Writer Two separate studies find people highly value their eyesight, but do little to maintain ocular health T wo studies on consumer attitudes about eyecare and ocular health yielded conflicting results—people place a high value on vision, but few actually visit an eyecare professional on a yearly basis. An overwhelming majority of people would rather lose a limb than lose vision, yet one in five mistak- enly believe that they do not need an eye exam unless they are having trouble seeing (see sidebar for study details). "There's a lack of consumer education about the importance of going to the eye doctor," said Marguerite B. McDonald, M.D., clinical professor of ophthalmology, Tulane University School of Medi- cine, New Orleans, and in private practice, Ophthalmic Consultants of Long Island, Lynbrook, N.Y. "People know they have to go to the en- docrinologist if they have diabetes, or make sure their cholesterol is checked yearly, but they don't place the same emphasis on eye health." While the emphasis people place on their vision wasn't surpris- ing, "I was shocked at the high proportion of people who don't get their eyes checked," said Christopher E. Starr, M.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology, direc- tor, Refractive Surgery Service, and director, Cornea, Cataract & Refrac- tive Surgery Fellowship, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. Numerous systemic diseases are "often diagnosed by ophthalmolo- gists first," including hypertension, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, and thyroid disease, Dr. Starr said. For people with corneal grafts, even getting a flu shot can be poten- tially damaging to the eye, said Bruce Koffler, M.D., founder, Koffler Vision Group, Lexington, Ky. Each year, Dr. Koffler's group sends out reminders to patients about the added risk a flu shot brings to poten- tial graft failure. Educating the community The only way to overcome the discrepancy in patient perceptions is to constantly educate—both con- sumers and healthcare professionals alike, Dr. Koffler said. His practice sends quarterly newsletters to up- date patients about the latest prod- ucts and is developing a Facebook page "so we can get out timely bits of information to our clients in a quicker manner." Dr. Koffler is also active in his local Lions Club and uses every opportunity possible to introduce himself to other physicians in the community as a means of closing the knowledge gap. The more edu- cated other medical professionals can be about eye health, the more educated the community as a whole can be, he said. Dr. McDonald has been actively involved in the Foundation for Eye Health Awareness (a nonprofit created to "increase the public's awareness about the importance of eye health through a nationwide messaging campaign that directs people to take better care of their eyes"), which includes ophthalmolo- gists, optometrists, and opticians. She's also a proponent of public service announcements within the community to alert people about the importance of vision health. "Some patients will be walking out the door and ask me for a contact lens script. They're shocked when I tell them they have to be properly fitted," she said, adding she sees contact lens-related corneal ulcers and significant infections from improper use "at least once or twice a week." Dr. Starr said he's already begun to use the information from the surveys in his practice. "We know there are a lot of misconceptions, and now we have the data at our fingertips and can use it as a spring- board to talk to patients and educate them," he said. "The biggest thing for me is going to be overcoming the idea that eyes that look fine or don't hurt must be healthy." "We treat some horrifically Bausch + Lomb uses the familiar eye chart to eradicate myths about vision and visual function Source (all): Bausch + Lomb: unhealthy eyes that are completely pain-free for the patient," Dr. McDonald said. "The eye is the only organ that's exposed—unlike, say, the pancreas or the liver. So when continued on page 26

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