I was just watching a “news” special, that smacked of being paid for, like many, seemingly real, news segments are, about eye health. It featured a series of ophthalmologists and optometrists that offered advice on various issues of the eye.
Some of these issues were serious, like macular degeneration. But a somewhat lengthy segment was about “chronic dry eye syndrome.”
The doctors offered several solutions to this irritating, and sometimes painful, problem – pills, operations… the usual medical stuff. But let me tell you about when I went to see an ophthalmologist about this type of problem.
My eyes were dry, itchy, and actually painful, in a half-achy, half-sharp sort of way. I was having trouble focusing on written words, and reading was getting to be really difficult. The ophthalmologist I went to was very young… I’d say she had probably graduated from med school within the last five years, at the most. She examined me thoroughly, listened to my descriptions, and then uttered an utter blasphemy – “Go home and put a hot, damp washcloth on your forehead and eyes for 15 minutes, three times a day, for three weeks.”
What?!?!? No pills? No surgery? No scheduled return visit? Are you insane? OK, I didn’t ask her that last one, but I incredulously asked, “Are you sure?” She said, “Yes.” I told her that the pharmaceutical companies would have her head. She laughed and agreed.
My wife had been having similar symptoms, and so we tried the “treatment” together… and it worked. I was stunned, for several reasons. First, that such a simple regimen had fixed my problem. But most importantly, that my doctor had been willing to ignore what I call the “Pill Imperative.” She had also not even mentioned surgery at all.
My ophthalmologist’s treatment for this condition wasn’t supposed to be a one-time, permanent cure. It has to be repeated, every once in a while. But to tell the truth, neither my wife nor I followed the plan to the letter, and it still worked. We did about half the recommended hot washcloth treatments, and now do it about once every two months, or so.
I’ve decided not to give my doctor’s name, here, because I actually do think that it could bring negative attention to her from various medical regulatory bodies and/or pharmaceutical companies. But this episode illuminates a basic problem with our health care “system.”
What’s wrong with our health care “system?” First, it’s not a “system” at all – it’s a bucket full of independent particles, more a gas than a fluid, each of which mainly exists to make money. There is a lot of good, of course. Many of those particles, while making money, do an excellent job and some of them actually care about people’s health. But what seems like a majority of doctors are all too ready to prescribe pills or surgery for almost any problem that a patient might have. Sometimes, this is due to an ignorant patient attitude, expecting pills and even, thanks to ridiculous advertizing on television, asking for medications by brand name.
Profits get sucked out of patients and insurance companies at several layers of the health care process, pushing the costs through the clouds, even while our bodies are increasingly assaulted by man-made toxins in the environment and in our food and water. These profits often leads to changes in the decision-making process concerning a patient’s care. Changes that are not based on the patient’s best interest.
The treatment prescribed by my ophthalmologist certainly won’t work for everyone. Sometimes pills and/or surgery are necessary or even urgent. There are many cases where an “alternative medicine” treatment just won’t get the job done, and could even cause a dangerous delay in getting the real medical attention that is needed.
But, in many cases, the first line of defense could be something simple and almost free. If you suffer from dry eyes, for example, you probably won’t die if you take a week or two to try this alternative treatment. Give it a shot, and if it doesn’t work, then you can go to a doctor and spend a bunch of money.
Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.