Connecting With Presbyopes
BY LEDONNA BUCKNER, FCLSA, Richmond, VA.
Why do some contact lens professionals report up to an 80% success rate with their presbyopic patients while others are considerably less effective? We all have access to the same lens products, so shouldn't we all have the same great outcomes?
If products were the only factor in the equation, the answer to this question should be yes. However, proper fit and improved vision also require evaluation by a contact lens technician with good communication skills -- not to mention cooperative patients. Read on to learn how working with patients can improve your chances for success.
Setting parameters for success
Every contact lens fitting session should start with a chat about expectations. Ask your patient about his visual needs at home and at work and what he expects from his contact lenses.
Patients often don't realize that contact lens- corrected vision isn't exactly the same as spectacle-corrected vision, so it's important they're aware of the difference before the fitting process begins. I like to explain the disparity by telling the patient that contact lenses provide a "softer" focus than eyeglasses.
Finding the proper contact lens for every patient is a process that often requires several visits -- and motivation on the part of the patient. Your patients need to know this. They must be willing to return to your office as often as needed and provide feedback so their lenses can be customized to their specific needs.
Today's patients are savvy enough to know about presbyopia. But being aware of presbyopia and accepting its effects on their vision are two different issues. Keep in mind that for the patient, the fitting process is one of acceptance. With each follow-up, give him the opportunity to express any frustration he may be experiencing with his contact lenses. You may have to remind him of your initial conversation in which you explained the areas of compromise, but reassure him you'll continue to address his problems to the best of your ability. Chances are, he won't give up on his contact lenses -- as long as you don't either.
Contact lenses can work well for presbyopic patients, as long as you set expectations, evaluate motivation and give your patients a chance to accept their new visual compromises. Brushing up on your communication skills may just be the boost you need to achieve a higher rate of success.
PLANO: Referring to a contact lens or spectacle lens without dioptic power.
PRESBYOPIA: An age-related condition characterized by loss of visual accommodation. Patients with presbyopia have difficulty focusing on near objects.
CORNEAL DYSTROPHY: Abnormal corneal morphology caused by defective nutrition, tissue degeneration or aberrant growth and development.
SOLUTION SENSITIVITY: A reaction to preservatives in lens care solutions characterized by redness and irritation. May contribute to reduced contact lens wearing time.
KERATOCONJUNCTIVITIS SICCA: Also known as dry eye disease. A disruption in the tear film that often contributes to reduced contact lens wearing time.