May 2007




Reading for dry eye relief


by Vanessa Caceres EyeWorld Contributing Editor


Specialist focuses on dry-eye causes and solutions

Robert Latkany, M.D.

Robert Latkany, M.D.

Dry eye can make a patient’s life miserable. Although dry eye may seem like a mere nuisance to those who have not experienced it, Robert Latkany, M.D., who specializes in dry eye, said these patients are an unhappy lot if they are not treated properly. “Few people have given dry eyes any attention at all. It’s been around for hundreds of years, but for many reasons, doctors don’t spend a lot of time with dry-eye patients, and these patients need time,” said Dr. Latkany, founder and director, Dry Eye Clinic, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, New York. He also founded a private practice to treat dry-eye patients.

Dr. Latkany has written a 226-page book on the condition called The Dry Eye Remedy. Although there is a greater awareness of dry eye nowadays—thanks to increasing lifespans but more stressful lives, as well as the growth of eye procedures such as LASIK and blepharoplasties—the condition deserves even more attention, Dr. Latkany said.

It’s hard to pin down the exact number of people who have dry eye—estimates range from 3 million to 77 million Americans. Those who see their eye doctor for dry eye often are looking for someone to recognize their condition and explain what causes it, Dr. Latkany said, adding that he hopes his book will be helpful for both patients and physicians in these instances.

“Most eye doctors don’t have the chair time to spend with these patients, with reimbursements so low. These patients can take 30 to 40 minutes of your time. Maybe doctors can use this book as a means of educating patients.”

Book details

The 14 chapters in Dr. Latkany’s book walk readers through the causes of dry eye; how over-the-counter and prescription medications can help; how a person’s environment, nutrition, and lifestyle contribute to dry eye; what someone can do at home to treat his dry eye; and what surgical interventions are available. The book also addresses the connection among hormone therapy and dry eye, punctal plugs, and future trends and research.

In the book, Dr. Latkany provides different treatment approaches for dry eye based on the person’s personality.

“There’s the fast, no-time-for-anything patient, the natural patient who wants nothing to do with medicine, and the regular patient who starts with a conservative approach and works his way up to aggressive treatment,” he said. Although Dr. Latkany jokingly describes the book’s tone as “dry” because of the subject matter, he said he made a point to include anecdotes to keep readers entertained.

More importantly, he said the book meets the needs of patients whose condition has never been given enough clinical time. These patients are often willing to go through some treatment trial and error if it brings them closer to dry-eye relief.

“A lot of my patients have been to 20 eye doctors. They want to know why they have the condition and what to do about it. This book will spell that out,” Dr. Latkany said.The dry eye remedy

He said he takes a similar approach in his practice. For example, he does not merely tell patients they have dry eye and send them on their way with a course of treatment. “We’ll say, ‘You have meibomian gland dysfunction,’ [and] we’ll go over where those glands are, what they do, what their purpose is, what [the patient] can do to fix it, and why [the patient] has what he has. It’s more about the source of the problem,” he said.

The patients who are referred to Dr. Latkany’s practice are often thirsty for the root cause information, he said.

“I have patients from around the world. They’re desperate and crying out for help,” he said. “It’s borderline scary. Numerous times I’ve heard people say they want to commit suicide. To the eye doctor, [dry eye] is just a nuisance [when], in fact, these patients are really suffering.”

Both in his book and in his practice, Dr. Latkany discusses with patients the limitations of treatments and what they can do at home to help their dry eye, an area his patients ask about frequently.

“You’ll make the patient more comfortable but not necessarily find a cure. These are patients who need a lot of hand-holding in the beginning, but you get them comfortable, and they’ll love you and refer other people to you,” he said.

Finding the time

Writing the book was not as arduous a process as one might think, Dr. Latkany said. It was something he wanted to do for a while, and he wrote the book during his hour- long train commute from the suburbs into New York.The dry eye remedy chapters

“The train ride is quite peaceful,” he said.

He said it was also helpful to bounce ideas off his wife, as both of them have dry eye. After writing the manuscript in an eight-month stretch, he spent another four months strengthening it with editors. What took longer was finding someone to publish the book. He found a patient who was an agent and who loved the idea. They pitched the book to 20 publishers, only to have them all reject it. The book was then accepted by the Long Island City, N.Y.–based Hatherleigh Press, which specializes in health-related books. Hatherleigh books are distributed by the publisher Random House.

A portion of the profits from The Dry Eye Remedy will be donated to the Sjцgrens Syndrome Foundation and the Society for Women’s Health Research.

Editors’ note: Dr. Latkany’s book is available for sale on

Contact Information

Latkany: 212-832-2020,

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