How to educate and treat today’s over-40 population
Presbyopi-huh? Nearly all optometrists who responded to a recent poll—92 percent—agreed that most patients have no idea what the word “presbyopia” means. The poll of 143 ODs, conducted by Optometry Times and eye care company Alcon, was part of Alcon’s Project Presbyopia, a campaign to educate patients on the signs and symptoms of presbyopia and encourage them to see an OD to explore solutions including multifocal contact lenses.
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In addition to the poll of ODs, Alcon conducted an independent survey of 500 presbyopes (that is, people with presbyopia) to better understand their awareness of the condition as well as their knowledge and use of vision correction devices like contact lenses as an alternative to reading glasses.
The survey results, reported by Optometry Times, may help eye doctors “better understand gaps in patient knowledge and awareness of presbyopia; identify areas for education; and help make the case for offering and fitting multifocal contact lenses.”
What your patients might not know about presbyopia
What eye care professionals (ECPs) know but patients may not is that presbyopia is one of the most common vision conditions, affecting nearly everyone as they get older. In fact, the term “presbyopia” comes from a Greek word that means “old eye,” according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
As a natural part of aging, the lens inside the eye loses its flexibility, which makes it difficult to focus on objects up close. That’s why many people over 40 find themselves holding menus or cell phones farther away from their eyes in order to read small print. This video can help illustrate the condition to patients:
Most patients don’t know the term “presbyopia,” or that it is one of the most common age-related vision conditions. Use other descriptive words and imagery to explain it.
Realize that patients may not recognize the term “presbyopia,” but they can certainly understand the symptoms and compensating behaviors. According to the Alcon poll, 39 percent of ECPs reported they avoid using the term presbyopia, while 59 percent use it along with other descriptive words when explaining the condition to patients.
For more on this topic, see Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Doctor-Patient Communication
Reading glasses are not the answer for all patients
There are a number of treatment options to address the changes in vision caused by presbyopia, but patients may not be aware of them. The Alcon survey found that 97 percent of presbyopes were familiar with the leading correction for the condition: reading glasses.
Most patients know that reading glasses are a common solution to presbyopia, but many aren’t satisfied with this option.
And if presbyopia is their only vision problem, glasses may be all they need. However, the message to patients should be that only a trained eye care professional can diagnose other vision problems they may be experiencing, such as astigmatism or cataracts. And while reading glasses can be bought without a prescription, only an ECP can determine the specific power of reading glasses that patients need with a thorough eye exam.
This is important, since survey results show that patients are not always satisfied with reading glasses as a solution to presbyopia. ECPs reported that 65 percent of their patients were disappointed to consider wearing reading glasses, and 67 percent wanted to stop adjusting their lives around their vision as it relates to their reading glasses.
Some patients prefer to wear contact lenses rather than eyeglasses. This is especially true for today’s presbyopic patients, who have higher expectations for freedom of movement and their appearances than patients in the past, wrote David Geffen, OD, in “Advanced Refractive Solutions for Today’s Presbyopic Patient.”
“Today’s presbyopes also want to maintain a youthful appearance. For example, some of our patients have undergone cosmetic procedures such as Botox and body sculpting. And many already have had refractive procedures with the goal of getting rid of their eyeglasses.” These patients are likely to be disappointed to learn that they may still need to wear readers.
Educate patients about other treatments, such as multifocal contacts and refractive surgery.
The best strategy is to let emerging presbyopes know that you have a variety of solutions to meet their needs. This Rendia video encourages prospective patients to make an appointment:
Alcon’s patient survey found that “once becoming aware of multifocal contact lenses, just over half (59 percent) of presbyopes surveyed said they are extremely likely or very likely to make an appointment with their doctor to discuss multifocal contact lenses.”
Be prepared to ask patients questions to help them make the right treatment decision that fits their lifestyle best, whether that’s reading glasses, contacts, refractive surgery, or corneal inlays—other options to correct presbyopia. Also, be proactive about addressing other eye health concerns patients may not be aware of.
Wrote Dr. Geffen, “Presbyopic and older patients bring with them a variety of other eye issues, including cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy—translating into busier practices than ever.”