Positive outlook critical in interaction among patients with glaucoma

April 4, 2008

When treating patients with glaucoma, ophthalmologists need to remember that the message they convey through their verbal communication plays a critical role in patient care, said Reay H. Brown, MD.

When treating patients with glaucoma, ophthalmologists need to remember that the message theyconvey through their verbal communication plays a critical role in patient care, said Reay H.Brown, MD.

"Glaucoma is a bad disease and patients are worried about blindness," said Dr. Brown, ASCRSglaucoma clinical committee chairman, and a private practitioner in Atlanta. "The facts, however, are that treatment is usually successful, most patients maintain vision,and even if the treatment is only partially effective, glaucoma damage develops veryslowly.

"Therefore, in caring for glaucoma patients, treating IOP is not enough," he added. "Our goalis to break the patients' fear cycle and leave them with hope."

Since physicians control the conversation about a patient's condition, they can extend either apositive or negative attitude. Dr. Brown said many opportunities exist to highlightsuccess.

Because stability is the goal of treatment, clinicians can emphasize a stable IOP, visualfield, or imaging results, he said. A favorable IOP response to new medical therapy or surgicalintervention represents another chance to underscore success.

On the other side of the coin, Dr. Brown said that there are statements to avoid, such as"Nothing is working," "I've tried everything," "I don't know what else to do," or "I giveup."

"These are all thoughts we may have from time to time," he said. "However, keep in mind that wenever run out of therapy. There is always something else we can do, and if a treatment is notworking, don't take it personally. Referring the patient is a net that you always have beneathyou."