I’d like to acknowledge all those dry eye patients who’ve been humiliated and embarrassed by ophthalmologists with serious attitude problems, to bring attention to the serious problematic trend of arrogance and lack of compassion in certain areas of medicine. This story actually happened to me, without exaggeration. Please take a moment to read my experience.
I recently saw the most arrogant and dismissive ophthalmologist I can imagine existing. I consulted him to spare myself the 3-hour trips to the city for DuraPlug insertion. This particular eye-specialist clinic in my local area agreed to order DuraPlugs (although they didn’t know what they were, perhaps a bad sign from the start). Soon after, when the plugs arrived at the office, I saw one of their so-called ‘best’ ophthalmologists. I was excited to make a connection with a good ophthalmologist so close to me, and went in with great expectations. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned.
After a brief introduction, before the exam even took place, this ophthalmologist had already made up his mind. He told me that the eye pain was ‘all in my mind’, and that I needed therapy for anxiety, not eye care. I was blown away. Here I was, experiencing severe pain everyday, having seen so many eye doctors for my dry eyes, having had an invasive eye surgery—and this doctor tells me that there is nothing wrong with my eyes, that it’s all my imagination. And this is before he had even examined my eyes. Isn’t this just the definition of arrogance? It’s not only arrogant—it’s rude, hurtful, dangerous, and unethical to give a preliminary diagnosis and suggestion for treatment before an examination.
After I got over the initial shock of his statement, I began to explain that it’s the other way around: It’s not anxiety that causes eye pain, It’s eye pain that has caused my anxiety to return! Any long-term dry eye sufferer or experience eye specialist knows how much impact severe dry eye has on one’s life. I then went on to explain to him that I’d seen a number of eye specialists, and all of them diagnosed my dry eye condition via the Schirmer’s test.
His response? Well, as you might have guessed, this doctor doesn’t like to be challenged—especially by clients, I’d imagine. So his already sharp mood soured even further. He began to swear, and used the ‘F’ word frequently: “F***, you’ve seen f***ing everyone!” for instance. Then he dismissed the Shirmer’s test as being useless, all in attempt to justify his entirely baseless remarks.
At this point, I was very uncomfortable and anxious. I almost felt like this couldn’t really be happening, like I was on some kind of bizarre TV show. I was half frozen in shock. I didn’t challenge him anymore. I did, however, by some miracle, manage to get him to examine just my worst eye (the left) by placing green dye on it and taking a look through the microscope. This ‘staining’ procedure is another common diagnostic test for dry eye.
I can’t remember what he said— there was too much swearing—but it was clear he didn’t like to be wrong. So the real miracle was when he agreed to put in the DuraPlugs.
He had great difficulty inserting the plugs. He dropped at least four on the floor, and it seemed as if he couldn’t actually insert them. He made a comment about my enlarged puncta, saying, ‘You’ve had so much work done to your eyes, even your canaliculus is huge.’ Again, another assumption he made that was completely untrue. The enlarged tear drainage system (punctum and canaliculus) was caused from the DCR surgery—nothing else! He was just frustrated he couldn’t get the plugs in. He was very rough, and didn’t use anaesthetic drops. I was too afraid to correct him.
Whilst he was working on the plugs, he continued to get more frustrated and upset, and repeated several times that it’s ‘stress induced’ and said I shouldn’t let it take over my life. He specifically said, ‘There are more important things in life than worrying about your eyes’. As if I could make all my problems go away if I’d just stop fussing so much over a little bit of dry eye—if only that were the case. I’d give anything to trade my ophthalmologist visits for psychologist visits. But the unfortunate truth is that my medical condition can’t be solved through psychotherapy. How anyone, especially an eye doctor, could say otherwise is beyond me.
After the plugs were inserted and we were finishing up, I decided to show him my moisture chamber glasses, since I was putting them on anyway—he said that I don’t need them. I cannot do without them for more than 20 minutes without pain, except when I’m wearing my scleral lenses. And when I mentioned that I use scleral lenses, he nearly burst a blood vessel. He went on to lecture me on how they are only used in ‘severe’ eye disease.
My condition is severe. This is not just my opinion. It’s a medically confirmed fact, as recognized by many other doctors. Trust me, no one would go through the trouble and expense of scleral lenses or the annoyance of moisture chamber glasses if he or she didn’t absolutely have to. It’s not fun.
I know, along with thousands of other dry eye sufferers, that it’s not stress related, and it does affect our lives, and we cannot simply ignore the pain. It’s absolutely incredible that this eye specialist with over 25 years experience doesn’t realize the impact that constant eye pain can on someone’s life—really, it’s scary. Take a look at some of the real life stories on www.DryEyeZone.com, such as this compelling story. Many people have had to quit their jobs, and even change their careers due to dry eyes. To marginalize the significance and impact of severe dry eye is flat out wrong.
We have to work to change this mindset. We have to hold bad doctors accountable for their actions and demand proper treatment. When we keep quiet about these kinds of occurrences, we perpetuate the environment that allows them to occur. Have you had an experience with an arrogant or inappropriate doctor? Have you been demeaned or mistreated? Share your story here.
– George Parker
That doctor seems specially rude. But that dismissive behavior is very usual when we have severe dry eye symptoms. It seems to me that they feel incompetent to treat the problem andblame the patient, like the problem is in our mind, a psychological problem. They do more damage doing this than helping us.
Yes, how can they think we wear those horrible moisture chamber glasses just because we think too much about our eyes?
Unbelievable George: I suggest you report this man to his medical board (College of Physicians and Surgeons in Canada). They would probably support him but he needs to know that this type of behavior (swearing) and dismissing patients complaints of suffering is just not acceptable and it is disconcerting to be under scrutiny by your governing board. The more people that report them the more seriously the board takes the complaints. I have done this in Canada (different complaint) and although he won in the end I made his life hell for 2 years as I wouldn’t take no for an answer. He destroyed evidence and it basically became my word against his but they did agree that if my word was correct then his examination had been inappropriate.
I would have told him my pain was most definitely in my head in two spots right above my nose!!
I can really relate to your frustration with doctors. It took me an entire year to find someone who would acknowledge my severe dry eye problems. I had to deal with being called ‘paranoid’ and being told it is my imagination (well technically all pain takes place through the brain so maybe that was one of the most accurate of insults).
Also had someone call me picky for not being happy with my eyesight in glasses (which was distorted cause of lack of tears).
Another time, after having read a bit about meibomian gland dysfuntion, I asked an opthalmic eye surgeon if my glands looked blocked. He replied it is impossible for glands to block. He didn’t even look at them.
One of my favourite moments was when I told an opthalmologist I was concerned about new red veins appearing on my eyes (one very large one in particular). He said when I get married my husband won’t mind it, so neither should I.
I am already married by the way. I am not worried about having white eyes for courting. I just wanted some treatment!
Phew, feels good to vent.
I too have had experiences with eye doctors being verbally abusive, dismissive and at times downright lying (eg saying there is nothing wrong when I knew for a fact from other doctors that I have corneal erosions/abrasions, keratitis, scarring, etc etc). Some failed to even inform me of my diagnosis let alone to inform me of damage, inflammation and scarring of the surface of my eyes. Others were already reading me their **** off and live with it speech without examining my eyes. I have dry eye bad enough to have caused a corneal ulcer, yet most doctors won’t even give me a follow up appointment or basic treatments such as punctal plugs. One doctor, who was in the process of telling me to **** off and never come back, I begged to help me because I didn’t know what I was supposed to do if I got another corneal ulcer. He turned his back and told me “just keep using the tears”. It was clear what he meant: don’t bother me with an ulcer. This is gross negligence to tell a patient to ignore a corneal ulcer. I feel that as a dry eye patient I suffer from severe discrimination, hatred, etc when trying to get medical help. The doctors I see write letters back to my GP which are not all helpful and don’t mention the severity of my dry eye, making me out to be a nutcase. It is very hard for me to get referrals from a primary care doc because of their hateful and non constructive letters. I could write much more but I’d be here all night.
I, too, have experienced crassness, unprofessionalism, and downright rudeness (not to mention incompetence) in eye doctor “professionals”. One issue I’d like to address is: Why do eye doctors like to keep us in the dark?
I had a severe corneal tear across most of the pupil as a result of severe damage to nerve to lacrimal gland, an anesthetized eye, paralysis of eyelid (and half my entire face, numbness and pain) as result of a botched neurosurgery for trigeminal neuralgia. First of all, I was never even told I had a corneal tear by the ophthalmologist I saw, whom I believe I was told was a corneal doc.. I just knew suddenly light on a cloudy day was blinding me, all I saw was white in that eye, and I was having severe pain (corneal neuropathy as well). The eye doctor I saw,at an ophthalmology dept in a teachig hospital, I thought was a corneal doc. I don’t know if he told me he was, or I just assumed he was. He wasn’t, I found out long after I stopped seeing him. He did blepharoplasty.
I messed around with getting treatment from this doc for 9 months. My corneal tear was not healed in that time. He prescribed no antibiotic drops, no steroid, no ointment, no drops, no bandage lense, no anything. It’s a miracle I didn’t end up needing a corneal transplant with his poor “treatment”. Fortunately for me, he moved to another location, and wasn’t taking any cases there yet. I needed emergency treatment. so went to a renowned practice in another location.
My first experience there wasn’t stellar. But I persisted and asked for another doctor. I’m happy to say I’ve been absolutely thrilled with all the care I’ve gotten there since then. I have seen 3 different specialists since being there: corneal docs, retinal doc, and and O.D. who has specialized in dry eye disease.
What I would like to urge every eye patient (and every patient of any kind) to do, is always get a 2nd opinion. Had I done that, my eye would have healed much faster, without as many complications perhaps. And I would have possibly been treated by doctors who were interested in listening to me, and who might provide some modicum of education, letting me know what was going on with my eyes. I didn’t even know my diagnoses! I was completely uneducated at that time.
Additionally, in my “good” eye, I had developed a blank spot in my central vision, and told my “not a corneal doc” this. He dismissed me, said it was just due to my “EBMD”, said quickly, I barely caught the acronym. He didn’t bother to explain what it was. I told this same doc for 9 mos the condition wasn’t improving. By then I had looked up EBMD and sort of knew what it was. He maintained that all the loose filaments were lining up in the middle of my cornea, that was why I couldn’t see. Right.
By the time I was seen by a retinal specialist at the 2nd clinic, I was immediatly diagnosed with a macular hole. I needed a vitrectomyand detaching of the membrance sticking to the macula to prevent the hole from getting even larger. But the retinal specialist informed me that he did not have alot of confidence that I would regain central vision because the hole had existed so long, and permanent damge had likely occured. Sure enough, central vision did not return.
So now I have severe Dry Eye Disease, surgically induced, in one eye, and lack of central vision in the other, due to the ineptitude of the same arrogant, unprofessional, and rude doc.
I realize I’ve wandered around, but I hope that something I said will help someone else avoid some of the costly mistakes I made. I also greatly appreciate the opportunity to vent!
I totally understand and have also made a blog about my experiences with incompetent, rude, arrogant doctors that DISMISS dry eyes, glare and floaters…
They are trying to avoid being sued, don’t you understand. People are going into jobs for the $$$ and not love of the actual job. It sickens me!
I hope you get back what you lost and I relate … 100%!
Just want to say, my heart goes out to everyone here!! Both very sad, yet glad to know there are people I can relate to. My story is under ‘list of complications..’ section God Bless
Thank-you Havad, we all appreciate your kind words and we certainly share the same sentiments back to you! Peace and healing to you.
Wow – and this is not isolated to dry-eyers. It’s everywhere (MS, Lyme, everything to do with pain.
Long long ago, yet still in the 1990’s the FM Network (Fibromyalgia) newsletter had stated that FM patients coined a term for such doctors:
DPS (Disturbed Physician Syndrome)
I’ve had bad experiences too with both fibromyalgia and eye doctors that act almost “triggered” that you’re seeking assistance for a problem that is causing a lot of life functioning issues for you. The eye doctor I went to told me he couldn’t operate on my cataracts because of the high risk of edema. But seemed outraged that I had gone to the local Division of Blind Services trying to find some kind of assistance so I could keep working. The fibromyalgia doctors simply can’t figure out what’s wrong with FM patients in the 1st place because they don’t know enough about it yet to help them and assess the impact properly…so they write it off as psychological.