Holistic Medicine in Optometry

What is holistic medicine?

Dr. Richardson views holistic medicine as medical care that goes beyond the physical ideology; as a practitioner, you can treat, along with signs and symptoms that can be viewed clinically, the patient’s mind, body, and spirit.

These alternative treatment ideologies can be integrated into your practice; they often are overlooked because Western medicine is taught in a linear fashion which requires direct treatment to achieve specific solutions. The disconnect between these techniques can turn prospective practitioners away, but if you’re interested, there are plenty of ways to get started!

How do you learn more about holistic medicine?

The truth is there’s no right or wrong way to expand your knowledge of holistic treatment. Some doctors that expand in this way attend nutritional programs, some may opt to specialize in more traditionally Eastern medicines such as Ayurveda, and some still continue on the path with self-education. “The best way to learn about it is to actually begin to practice it.” Dr. Richardson says.

You can also reach out to other practitioners in the industry for some insight! Finding a mentor can not only help you integrate new practices into your business but can also help you to market yourself and your services to prospective patients.

Where does holistic medicine fit into your optometry practice?

The key to incorporating holistic medicine into your practice is considering your patients’ lifestyles first and foremost. While you’ll still prescribe medications and diagnose as usual, practicing holistically can help expand on existing treatment.

If, for example, you meet with a patient who has uveitis, but you know that it is being caused by stress. You can continue the conversation beyond prescribing medication and address the source of that stress or recommend meditation or other lifestyle modifications that can help to alleviate their stress.

Even for diagnoses that will require medical intervention (like dry eye), you can still discuss changes to other elements of the patient’s life like diet or introducing supplements that can also aid the recovery process. “I find that the conversation is a ‘yes and…’ Prescribe medications that we traditionally prescribe but also offering holistic lifestyle options for the patient.

In conjunction with these lifestyle adjustments, you can also opt to prescribe more neutraceutical solutions such as tea tree oil for blepharitis that can supplant manufactured chemical drops for simple diagnoses.

Focus on the patient

Not every person that steps through your doors will be open to the idea of holistic treatment, especially if the concepts feel very foreign to them. You can, however, approach the concepts slowly. You are still a medical professional, and you can provide insight into why you feel a holistic option may be beneficial for them! On the other hand, you may have patients who come to you specifically because you take a holistic approach to care!

What can you do today?

The best recommendations are always personal recommendations. The easiest way to approach holistic medicine in your practice is to make it part of your life outside of the office. To start, Dr. Richardson recommends talking to patients about stress. Identifying stressors in a patient’s life and discussing techniques they can use (and offering insight into how you manage stress) can, in turn, lead to better overall health.

Blue-light anti-reflective coating also has a role to play in holistic treatment. If a patient spends a lot of their time looking at a screen, they may be unknowingly disrupting their circadian rhythm. Just as stressors can contribute to exacerbating or causing health problems, so too can a lack of sleep. Taking the step to discuss their screen use and review the benefits of blue-light anti-reflective coating can have a major impact on their lifestyle as well!

About Dyllan Thweatt

Dyllan Thweatt
Dyllan is a UC San Diego graduate and the Associate Editor for NewGradOptometry and CovalentCareers. In his time out of the office he is also a full-time Dungeon Master, pet dad, and an avid tea drinker.

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