By Kimberly K. Friedman, OD, FAAO

I love analogies! They provide a way to connect with and educate our patients easily in a simple and memorable way. I think we all use them in our practices to some extent. I’ve never met an optometrist who hasn’t said that astigmatism is “like a football-shaped eye” or the retina is “like the film in a camera.” Through the years, I have developed some tried-and-true analogies that have helped me communicate common topics in the office. Here are a few of my favorite analogies. Feel free to borrow them or modify them for your own use.

“A cataract is when the lens in the eye gets cloudy with age, just like when a clear Tupperware container goes through the dishwasher too many times or has had spaghetti sauce in it a few too many times. It simply gets cloudier and less transparent. When that happens to the lens in our eye, light can’t get through it, and we call that a cataract.”

“Dry eye is like arthritis of the eyeball.” I use this analogy to impart the knowledge that dry eye is an inflammatory condition. “It is chronic. It progresses with age, and it requires a consistent therapeutic approach in order to combat the inflammatory process.” I find that this analogy facilitates better patient compliance with treatment protocols and less resistance to chronic use of medications.

“Reusing a daily contact lens is like reusing a dirty tissue. It isn’t clean. It has microbes that could cause infection in the eye, and, just like an old tissue, there is no approved way to sterilize or disinfect it.”

Here’s one to use when confronted with that age-old question, “Why do I have to pay for a contact lens evaluation when nothing has changed?” I say, “Contact lens examinations are just like a visit to your family doctor for hypertension, diabetes or any other condition. I usually personalize this one to whatever chronic condition the patient has disclosed. “Even though you may have been on the same high blood pressure medication for many years and the doctor didn’t change the prescription, there is a still a charge for the doctor’s evaluation to ensure that the prescription is still accurate.”

I often use car analogies in the office. (Hint: use a car that is no longer in production for the low-level option—you don’t want to offend anyone by using the car they drive to describe the “lesser” option!) “The difference between a premium, single-use contact lens and a standard monthly disposable lens is like the difference between a Lexus and a Pinto. They will both get you there, but one will get you there with greater comfort and advanced technology.”

“Your cornea is the front part of the eye that we see through. It’s just like the windshield of your car. You would have trouble seeing through your car windshield if it were to get dirty or spotty, just as you are having trouble seeing though your cornea because it is dirty or spotty due to dry eye disease/epithelial basement membrane dystrophy/Fuchs/etc.”

“Comparing a premium eyeglass lens to a standard eyeglass lens is just like comparing a high-definition TV to a standard-definition TV. The programming is the same, but one delivers a picture that is much clearer and more vibrant.”

Got any more? Feel free to email them to me at [email protected] and maybe they will appear in a later column.