Dr. Alain Bauza is a comprehensive ophthalmologist at the New Jersey Eye Center. He provides primary care for all eye diseases and conditions. We met him recently to talk about his role at the clinic.
The following interview is by Twinlight Studios.
Dr. Bauza, what can you tell us about your work? What do you do on a routine day?
I see a variety of patients with a number of eye conditions ranging from simple eye-glasses check-ups to more serious conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, eye injuries and infections, diabetes, etc. What I enjoy most about my job is improving patients’ quality of life through my work.
As a comprehensive ophthalmologist you have a hand in all eye conditions. Does this help in treating your patients?
Yes, it allows me to see a variety of conditions. Patients can have multiple eye conditions at the same time, such as cataracts and glaucoma. It is important to individualize every patient’s care. By having a wide scope of practice, it gives me the ability to look at the patient as a whole and provide wide-ranging care.
What are some of the most common eye conditions you come across?
Dry eye is very widespread, as well as glaucoma, cataracts, diabetes, and macular degeneration. Diabetics should be screened as soon as they are diagnosed with diabetes to make sure there are no diabetes-related changes in the eye. They should then have a comprehensive medical eye examination at least once a year.
One out of three people suffer from dry eye to some degree. Many patients don’t recognize the range of symptoms, which can include dryness, irritation, eye pain, eye strain or tiredness, eye heaviness, redness,
foreign body sensation, burning, blurring vision and tearing. It is a complicated disease process that can be progressive. There are many treatments ranging from lubrication with artificial tears to more serious treatments like medicated eye drops or procedures. We provide all of them at our Eye Clinic. Punctal plugs and LipiFlow therapy are very good for dry eyes.
What about the cornea – the surface of the eye. What kind of common conditions affect the cornea?
Apart from dry eye, pterygia and pinguecula are very common. A pingueculum or pterygium is a yellow spot on the surface of the eye, a growth of fleshy tissue. These conditions are more common in patients who have had significant exposure to the sun and dust or who are from parts of the world close to the Equator. They very often have dry-eye-like symptoms. Vision can be affected, and surgery is sometimes required. Surgery usually involves removing damaged tissue and replacing it with healthy tissue from the same eye to help prevent it from regrowing.
Another common disease is glaucoma. It is a disease that can lead to irreversible and progressive loss of vision and blindness if left untreated. Glaucoma numbers are steadily increasing because the population as a whole is aging. Currently about 3 million people over the age of 40 have glaucoma, and this number is expected to rise. It is extremely important to have routine eye examinations because most patients do not have symptoms. During a routine check-up, we inspect the optic nerve.
If we suspect glaucoma, we will perform further testing and begin treatment.
There are also a lot of conditions related to the retina – the back of the eye.
I also see many other conditions of the retina that can lead to vision loss like macular degeneration and retinal vascular occlusion – blood vessel blockage in the eye. Sometimes these are caused by medical conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
What symptoms would patients notice?
Patients may experience sudden blurring of vision, loss of vision, partial shadows, floaters, black spots and flashing lights. These symptoms should be urgently evaluated by an eye physician.
So, the health of the body can affect vision?
The eyes tell us a great deal about the patient’s overall health. We can detect many conditions based on eye health. Whenever we discover in the eye signs of a systemic disease, we try our best to help coordinate the patient’s care with their primary care doctor.
Am I right in thinking that many eye conditions, if not treated, can lead to blindness?
In a sense. Even severe dry eye can lead to scarring of the cornea and that may result in loss of vision.
What else needs to be done to avoid serious conditions leading to blindness?
Regular eye examinations will help screen for many underlying conditions. I recommend a comprehensive medical eye examination at least annually. Other factors include good diabetic and hypertension control, UV protection with sunglasses, and quitting or avoiding smoking.
How do you instruct your patients about their eye conditions?
We spend time explaining the diagnosis to our patients. The most important thing is to make sure a patient understands their condition in order to help them
understand why we are recommending certain treatments. For me, a well-educated patient is a happy