Patient-physician discussions are vital for treatment and education, but a new study shows that better communication may also be a valuable tool for determining the severity of glaucoma disease.

“One specific challenge in communicating about glaucoma is that the treating physician doesn’t fully grasp what the patient sees and the words they might use to describe these visual symptoms,” the researchers said. Better communication helps physicians understand the patient’s vision concerns.

One hundred seventy adults diagnosed with glaucoma were analyzed. Questionnaires rated visual symptoms, and the most notable cases were identified. Eye damage was reported in patients who experienced blurry vision, sensitivity to light, glare, cloudy vision, and poor peripheral vision. Those who exhibited the most significant variance in vision (43 percent) were people who complained of little peripheral vision.

Researchers noted there was a 62 percent variance in eye damage. Symptoms described by patients coincided with glaucoma. The information can help judge glaucoma in clinical settings.

“These symptoms suggest specific terms that are likely to reflect glaucoma damage, which can be used when communicating with patients,” said researchers.

“Missing patches can point to glaucomatous scotomas, cloudy vision can be understood as the manifestation of contrast deficits which underlie glaucoma, and worsening vision may reflect eyesight severity because of a greater rate of worsening in severe disease. Reporting worsening vision may also reflect the clinically-observed tendency of subjective vision to fluctuate more in advanced glaucoma, resulting in days of worsening, though some corresponding days of improvement would also be present,” said researchers.

Good communication can help physicians understand patient symptoms, strengthen relationships between the two, and enable patients to understand the impact of eyesight diseases on their life.

The researchers said, “Understanding what symptoms patients with severe glaucoma experience is uniquely important, as they may feel frustrated completing visual testing or lose faith in treatment due to their limited vision. If physicians demonstrate an understanding of what specific symptoms are related to severe glaucoma and the impact on a patient’s vision, they may be able to better develop therapeutic alliances with patients.”

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