The only time is now. Every "now" is unique. Responsible persons ask themselves, "How can I act well now?" The answers will differ for every person, because just as every situation is unique, so is every person different from every other person. But surely there must be some algorithm that will assist us in coming to the right answer. Unfortunately, no, for there is no right answer. There is only an answer that is as appropriate as we can conclude at that moment in that situation. No written guidelines can apply appropriately to every unique situation.Unfortunately we physicians have been suckled on a fallacy: "What's good for the goose is good for the gander." Phrased in medical terms, "normal findings are good, and abnormal findings are bad." This is too simple, and often wrong.Good clinicians know that care must be personalized for it to be optimal. So-called normal findings give rough guidance, sometimes applicable to groups, but frequently wrong for individuals. Consider intraocular pressure (IOP). A normal IOP of 15 mmHg good for some and bad for others, and an abnormal IOP of 30 mmHg is good for some and bad for others. We are so bombarded by the myth of the sanctity of the standard distribution curve that it is hard to think independently and specifically. Also, unfortunately, doctors are prone to decide for patients, often on the basis of normative data that is not relevant or important for the particular patient. That we do this is not surprising, as we want to help, and so we default to what seems to be the easy, safe (non-thinking) way, in which we do not have to hold ourselves accountable for the outcome.Somebody HAS to decide, or else we would be living in an anarchical world. Also true. And because none of us knows as much as we need to know to act appropriately, we seek advice from so-called "experts."For us to care for people well it is essential that we consider what others recommend. So we look to experts, as we should. However, experts are sometimes right and sometimes wrong. Remember that von Graefe in 1860 recommended surgical iridectomy for all glaucoma, Elliot recommended mustard plaster between the shoulders for glaucoma, Becker based treatment on tonographic findings, Weve reported 100% success with penetrating cyclodiathermy in glaucoma, Lichter advised against laser trabeculoplasty, many thought Cypass was great, and the investigators in the Advanced Glaucoma Intervention Study indicated that an IOP usually around 12 mmHg was better than one usually around 20 mmHg. All wrong. What the authors of these guidelines have done excellently, is to provide a general framework on which ophthalmologists can hang pieces of evidence, so as to be able to evaluate the validity and the importance of that evidence. In doing this meticulously they have provided a valuable service to all ophthalmologists, none of whom individually have either the time or the skill to be fully informed. In their own practices the authors consider whether valid information is relevant for the particular person being considered. That process of considering relevance is essential, always. And relevance is based on the particular unique patient, unique doctor and unique situation. The only guideline the authors can provide in this regard is to remind us all to consider relevance with all patients in all situations, and from the patient's perspective. Even more important than the service to ophthalmologists is the benefit to patients that will result from thoughtful use of these guidelines.We need, also, to remember that diagnoses are generic, and that within every diagnosis there are differences. For example what does a diagnosis of primary open angle mean? Some of those affected will rapidly go blind despite the most thoughtful treatment and others will keep their sight even without treatment. What does a diagnosis of Chandler's Syndrome mean? In some, surgery works well, and, in others, poorly. So one never directs diagnosis and treatment at a condition, but rather at the person, the objective being the wellness of that person.The previous European Glaucoma Society Guidelines are used internationally. It is good that the EGS is again providing updated, useful information.The Guidelines are a practical, inspirational contribution.
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