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Why optometrists are awesome


I give you my “three cheers for optometry,” a list of ways optometrists can do great things.

The views expressed here belong to the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of Optometry Times or UBM Medica.

I have a teenage son. I also have tween twin girls. I spend a great deal of my personal time pointing out positive aspects of life to my typically sour, often down-and-out offspring. Having moody children who feel more negative than positive on any given day is difficult for me to understand. I tend to be quite a positive person. 

I have, however, had quite the eventful fall due to various medical concerns, which have required more doctor visits than I could imagine. I tore my meniscus, my daughter has osteocondritis dessicans, and my son had bilateral ankle sprains. Visiting orthopedists, physical therapists, pediatric gastrointestinal specialists, labs, and imaging facilities for me, my daughter, and my son is enough to make even us sunshiny types cranky. At this point, any condition ending in “–itis" will make me reflexively pull out my ID, insurance card, and copay.

More from Dr. Swartz: Dealing with nightmare patients

The varying degrees of unhappiness of other professions

I visited a doctor with my son October 1, 2015. This is the day that ICD-10 went live, in case you are a healthcare provider living in a cave. For those who have not been fortunate enough to have to visit an orthopedic specialist, they typically run behind. I suppose this is expected given that so many of these patients hobble around on crutches. I do not think that waiting for more than an hour for any doctor is the best use of my time. I went prepared. We had my son’s homework, two smartphones, headphones, and possible ICD-10 codes for his anticipated diagnosis. I tried to make light of the historical day by offering my anticipated codes to the nurse, who looked bored with my antics. It turned out the office had been using the coding set for a month. I thought the staff was suffering from various degrees of unhappiness because of the ICD-10 rollout, but apparently, that is their normal demeanor.

As I visited other doctors, I noted that often they demonstrate varying degrees of unhappiness. My physical therapists are the exception, but that may be because they get to electrocute me while freezing me to death at every visit. It occurred to me our profession can easily be incredibly rewarding. The opportunities we have to “knock the ball out of the park” on a daily basis are numerous. I have become quite adept at finding the silver lining in every situation as of late, given my extraordinary amount of time waiting on other healthcare personnel, and thought I would create a list for my optometry friends. 

Next: The ways ODs can do great things


The ways ODs can do great things

I give you my “three cheers for optometry,” a list of ways optometrists can do great things.

1. We can make crooked eyes straight for the child who sees two teachers in class. And not only can we do that, we can do it using glasses or by using eye exercises. Who would not love to wear red/green glasses and do magic tricks with their eyes all day? And when the double vision is gone, if he falls from a tree and gets double vision again, we can fix it again. 


2. We can stop glaucoma in its tracks. And I am not referring to just “visual field defect glaucoma.” I mean subclinical glaucoma. The glaucoma that we find using our glorious machines that enable us to find the damage to the nerve before it even affects the vision. Amazing. 

More from Dr. Swartz: Putting patients first with refractive surgery

3. We can find retinal detachments in patients who arrive reading the 20/20 line and argue against needing that dilation. And we can do that with cool flashlights on our heads. 


4. We can guide an emergency room doctor to order bloodwork on a patient who reports a loss of vision in one eye over the last 24 hours with pain behind the eye. We cannot give up when the bloodwork is not significantly abnormal but for anemia and beg our retinal surgeon buddy to do an angiogram to reveal ciliary artery occlusion leading to a temporal artery biopsy. We can ask for a bilateral test to be absolutely sure and find severe systemic vasculitis. We can do that victory dance.


5. We can make a baseball player a better athlete (without the electrocution and ice, I might add).


6. We can refer a patient with vertigo to the ENT when the primary-care physician (PCP) thought it was just a virus. Or we can scan a patient with headaches to find a Chiari malformation in the child the PCP thought was malingering. 

Next: More great things


7. We can take a child with monocular latent hyperopia, amblyopia, and suppression, and correct her with contact lenses, add a patch, a dose of vision therapy, and PRESTO, we have a binocular child who can now enjoy paying $5 more for the 3D movie.


8. We can see that patient after hours when the treatment by the doc-in-the-box does not make that enormous corneal ulcer better and turn it around in 24 hours. We can even take pictures of it for his Facebook page. 


9. We can help the child who can’t sit still in class and takes ADD medication sit still without the medication. (And create less work for the school nurse.) 


10.We can make all the tweens see the leaves on the trees when they get their new glasses.

More blogs: Dry eye should stay in the hands of eyecare professionals

11. We can fit contact lenses on patients with corneal disease preventing vision in spectacles-and teach them to apply the lenses when they said they could not.


12. We can fit patients with low vision devices to enable them to read or drive or sign checks for their grandchildren.


13. We can identify diabetic retinopathy in a patient who swore he did not need to see his doctor for a physical. Ever. 


14. We can educate the public that smoking is bad. We will do this every year patients come in to see us for glasses and throw tomatoes and colored peppers at them for not listening.


15. We can explain all those visual illusions like we own the place.


16. We can run to the aid of the Walmart customer who is staring at the shelves of artificial tears to make sure she doesn’t purchase Visine.


17. We can make office lenses with a blue light blocker for the lawyer who complains every time he visits our office that he can’t read the computer for 14 hours because of eyestrain.


18. We can fit multifocal contact lenses. Enough said. 


We can celebrate that list and revisit it as needed. I suggest writing it in bright Sharpie markers on stickies that you place on the mirror in the bathroom. Be sure to include lots of smiley faces.

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