The Gentle Touch

Why start patients with medications when a natural approach could work wonders?

One of the main reasons Natural Ophthalmics products are part of her practice is because she knows firsthand how they can help, says Pauline K. Buck OD, FAAO, FCOVD.

At a 2012 College of Optometrists in Vision Development annual meeting in Texas, Dr. Buck was just getting over a bout of viral conjunctivitis. She ran into Natural Ophthalmics president Brian Banks there, and he suggested Ortho-K Thin Eye Drops in place of steroids. The drops are free of preservatives and can be used as often as needed to alleviate dry, red, itchy and irritated eyes. “I did so, and the inflammation went down,” she says. “It was great.”

She began to look for ways to bring the products into her vision therapy practice in Miami, Florida. Today, Natural Ophthalmics products “are in the exam room. If I have an orthokeratology patient, the Ortho-K Drops are part of what I provide in the starter pack,” she says. “Then they can get refills from me. I keep the price competitive because I want patients to use it.” When ortho-k patients can wear and remove their contact lenses with more comfort, they’re more likely to adhere to the schedule and will gain the most from the therapy, she says.

She also turns to Natural Ophthalmics products for her dry eye patients. Dr. Buck says the products are more effective and actually cost less than artificial tears or lubricants available in stores. “The lubricants in drug stores are pricey, and they contain a preservative,” she says. The goal in treating dry eye is to find the underlying inflammatory cause, she says. That means assessing the whole person and looking for possible causes of the condition while offering a range of possible solutions. Some of the underlying issues that contribute to dry eye symptoms could be helped by acupuncture or practicing yoga, for example. Or there might be a hormone imbalance to be dealt with. “But to make them comfortable immediately, either the Ortho-K or the Women’s Tear Stimulation Dry Eye Drops can help.”

For some patients, allergies can be a contributing factor to discomfort or red eyes. Allergies can interfere with a great contact lens-wearing experience for many patients, and she has seen many children who are exposed to mold or other allergens. “I have no hesitation about using these products with kids. Parents appreciate having a product that isn’t another medication. If a patient has an allergy, I start with the Allergy Desensitization Eye Drops. If more treatment is needed, I can write a prescription. But I start with as natural a treatment as possible.”

Natural treatments are becoming more widely used, Dr. Buck says, and she encourages that trend. “Anywhere I go, I talk about it,” she says. “If I’m talking with a woman and she says she has dry eye symptoms, I say, ‘I’ve got this fantastic drop that I use. If your doctor doesn’t have it, give me a call.’ Natural Ophthalmics drops are the only eye drops I carry. I use the Allergy Desensitization Eye Drops, the Ortho-K Thick and Thin Drops and both dry eye formulations.”

She launched her practice 13 years ago as a traditional optometry provider, but she has shifted over the years into offering vision therapy. In addition to seeing children, she sees plenty of over-50 adults dealing with, for example, decompensating or overcompensating phoria. “These people have had something their entire lives but are now realizing they can do something about it,” she says.

Her practice has evolved differently than most. “Most ODs want more appointments, more frames and more services,” she says. “I’ve seen colleagues burn out because it can be exhausting. I want fewer patients and more time with them. Some people thrive on the fast pace, but I thrive on knowing the patients and taking time to answer their questions.”