How to Talk to an Ophthalmologist

Be honest. Be specific. Keep them informed.

Be Honest

Provide a complete medical history. Keep a list of medications you take with you so you can fill out medical forms at any time. Keep an updated list of medications to which you have allergies with you.

If you are honest when you explain how you are feeling, but your doctor doubts you, or dismisses what you are saying, without some explanation, it may be time to find another doctor.

Be Specific

If something hurts tell the doctor exactly how it hurts, where it hurts, and how badly it hurts.

You might say something like this:

  • I have a burning sensation on my lower lid margins at a level 8, on a scale of 1 to 10.
  • I have a foreign body sensation in my upper left lid, inner corner, that’s a level 4, and happens every time I blink.
  • The drops sting, a level 10, every time I use them, for 4 hours, then the stinging subsides to level 2, for the next four hours.

Be familiar with terms related to your condition so you can communicate effectively with your doctor, and so that you can understand what your doctor is telling you.

Be specific when you describe where the pain is. There is a difference, for example, if the pain you are feeling is on the outside of the eye lid, inside the tissue of the lid, or underneath the lid. You might not be able to tell exactly where the pain is – it might feel like it is in the eye or the lid. If that happens, tell your doctor. With a few more questions, your doctor should be able to help you pinpoint exactly where the pain is.

Keep Them Informed

Tell the doctor how you are feeling. If you aren’t feeling better after a treatment, tell your doctor. Your doctor can not possibly know how you are feeling unless you communicate honestly. And the doctor won’t adjust your treatment unless you tell the doctor what’s going on.

More Tips

For great tips on how to talk to your doctor, see:
When Doctors Don’t Know What’s Wrong: How to leverage your doctor’s biases in your favor.
By Alex Lickerman, M.D.
October 26, 2009