Generally, complementary and alternative therapies (CAT) are accepted methods of treatment by patients with various types of conditions. Their use is becoming especially prevalent among patients with eye problems even in developed countries. Thus, we aimed to determine the pattern of use of CAT in this patient population, to identify the patient characteristics associated with the use of CAT, and to assess the types of CAT used.
A descriptive, cross-sectional study was conducted in Palestine at An-Najah National University Hospital between the time periods of October 2019 to May 2020, using questionnaire-based face to face interviews. Data were collected through convenience sampling. Patients responded to the questionnaire, which was focused on information adapted from previous research in this area, covering socio-demographic and clinical characteristics, types of CAT, source of information, and side effects on CAT use.
A total of 86 patients were interviewed for our study. Over two thirds, 67% reported using CAT for the specific purpose of improving their eye condition, and about one third (29.1%) received more than one therapy. The most common therapies reported were duea’ (i.e. supplication) (47.1%) and herbal therapies (24.1%). It was shown that patients with bilateral involvement of their eyes were almost twice more likely to describe using CAT than patients with unilateral eye pathology (p = 0.006). Also, patients who underwent surgery as their route of treatment were significantly less likely to use CAT (p = 0.043). Most of our study participants mentioned a non-physician source as their source of information regarding CAT with family members being the most frequently mentioned (30.2%) followed by the internet (25.6%) and friends (19.8%).
The prevalence of CAT use among patients with eye disease is somewhat high in our study population. Because CAT may trigger adverse reactions, influence the progression of the disease, and interfere with conventional treatment, the ophthalmologist should frequently be asked patients with such diagnostics regarding the use of these therapies. Further work is required to analyze the mechanisms of action and to establish realistic guidelines for the use of these modalities.