Quite often when we have a contact lens patient in our office complaining of dry eye, they have already started some type of treatment. How are they making the decision of where to start? Who is guiding them in the discussions of brands and options? If they aren’t getting that advice from you, then where?
A recent article in Contact Lens & Anterior Eye lists a study that looks into this subject with a bit more detail. As we know, patients obtain many of their “treatment options” from the pharmacy. The purpose of the study was to investigate if the pharmacy staff could correctly diagnose and treat dry eye.
A mystery shopper technique was employed, where patients presented with dry eye symptoms. Fifty pharmacies were unknowing involved in the study. Questions asked, diagnosis given and management strategy were recorded after each encounter.
The following results were seen. The mean number of questions was 4.5, and the most common question was the duration of symptoms (56%). Only a few (9% ) asked about contact lens wear. All pharmacy staff gave a diagnosis, but the majority were incorrect (58%), with only 42% correctly identifying dry eye1.
When it came to treatment, it was advised by 92% of pharmacy staff, with the remaining 8% advising referral directly to the patient’s medical doctor or optometrist. Dry eye treatments involved topical ocular lubrication via eye drops (90%) and lipid based sprays (10%). When treatment was given, only 10% gave administration advice, 10% gave dosage advice and none offered follow up1.
Dry eye is common enough that patients may feel comfortable asking for treatment advice from people other than their eye care professional. For this reason it is important to try and pre-empt this conversation. Talk to your patients about dry eye and treatment options before it becomes an issue. Make sure your patient is in tune to possible symptoms and the appropriate next course of action. Not only might you be helping your patient feel better, but you would also be saving them money on purchasing unnecessary treatment options.
Jason E. Compton OD FAAO
- Bilkhu PS, Wolffsohn JS, Tang GW, Naroo SA.Management of dry eye in UK pharmacies. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2014 Jul 7.