I RECENTLY visited an optometrist for my dry eyes, an annoying but not life-threatening condition that afflicts 4.88 million Americans over the age of 50. Common though it may be, still it’s a pain in the ass, as well as the eyes. Blurry vision, watery eyes, mild headaches and the inability to read small print even with perfect vision and great reading glasses sent me there.
This was the second eye doctor I went to. The first had recommended a treatment—a special eye mask filled with beads that I heated in the microwave and then placed over my eyes for 20 minutes every morning—that worsened the condition, so I decided to get another opinion.
This one, Dr. X let’s call her, appeared to have come in the morning mail. Okay, fine, I reasoned, she’s young, fresh out of eye-doctor school, full of the latest info. The fact that she wore yoga pants and a long T-shirt, an outfit I might wear when cleaning the bathroom, irked me, but hey, I’m old and stuck in my dinosaur ways of expecting professional people to look professional. Those days are gone, I chided myself.
But the woman-child knew nothing. She quickly examined my eyes and declared them perfect, concluding I had dry eye syndrome, which I had said on the phone when I made the appointment and again on the patient questionnaire I filled out when I arrived. She offered two prescription medications, citing them both as “the very best available” treatment, and left the room to get me a sample so I could try some out. But she returned with a third drug saying, “I haven’t ever used this but my colleague just told me it’s new and pretty good. It’s quite expensive so we’ll have to see if your insurance covers it. Oh, and it won’t start working for about two months. Anyway, I don’t have any samples of the other ones.”
I left with my one-month trial of the very expensive Cequa, a prescription for my pharmacy for more of the stuff, and an appointment for a checkup with the doctor in three months. Not being a moron, when I got home I read all I could find about Cequa on the Internet. I learned that it had some very serious side effects and some less serious side effects. These included intense burning of the eyes upon insertion of the drops, blurry vision, watery eyes, headaches, increased floaters, increased sensitivity to light, haloes, urinary tract infections, lower back pain and sharp pain in the side.
So I could start taking this costly drug and for the next two months feel a lot worse than I do now, and then maybe feel better, or not. I called Dr. X and told the receptionist that I would not be taking the drug and thus would bring back the sample packs. She put me on hold, then came back and said, “No problem. You don’t need to bring them back. Just throw them in the trash.”
Andrea Rouda blogs at The Daily Droid.