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