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Top-notch specialists offer expert eye care

By Life@TheU

Top-notch specialists offer expert eye care

By Life@TheU
Learn from University of Miami Health System experts who can help support your health and well-being.

The South Florida community does not need to look far to find a top-ranked program for eye care. This summer, the University of Miami Health System’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute was recognized by U.S News & World Report as the No. 1 eye hospital for the 19th time, and the 17th consecutive year, since the publication began surveying U.S. physicians for this annual ranking in 1989. With a dedicated team that—according to Dr. Eduardo C. Alfonso, director of Bascom Palmer—has been able to turn the pandemic’s challenges into new opportunities to deliver clinical care safely and effectively, patients can find expert eye care, research, and service at five patient care centers in Miami, Palm Beach Gardens, Naples, Plantation, and Coral Gables at The Lennar Foundation Medical Center. Learn more about the ranking announcement.

Doctors can tell how stressed, sleep deprived, or exposed to the sun a patient are just by looking at their eyes. Here are a few ways you can ensure eye care becomes or continues being a priority for your health and overall well-being.

Schedule an annual checkup.

According to Delia Cabrera DeBuc, a researcher at Bascom Palmer, patients should develop a routine of checking their eyes as often they have an annual physical. These visits—which are particularly important for patients with a history of certain diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, or diabetes—can help doctors gauge changes in vision, health of the retina and blood vessels, and even brain health. Learn more about eye symptoms that may signal other health conditions.

Find care at every age.

Whether you’re 5 or 95, getting the appropriate eye care is vital to overall health and well-being. For Dr. Kendall Donaldson, a cataract surgeon at Bascom Palmer, older patients often develop cataracts as a normal part of life. According to Donaldson, cataracts occur when the eye’s natural lens—like a camera lens, which allows you to focus on objects—turns dense and cloudy. While a gradual process, the eyes typically adapt over the years with the use of stronger eyeglass prescriptions or by limiting certain activities like driving at night, but ultimately may require surgery. Learn more about cataracts and surgery.

For school-age children, eye health can play a significant role in academic success. Regular eye exams establish a baseline, or standard, of information, which can help doctors identify vision problems quickly. This is particularly important if a child has a close family member with an eye disease or condition. Dr. Ta Chen P. Chang, pediatric ophthalmologist at Bascom Palmer, recommends that children wait until age 5 to have a complete eye exam, unless the pediatrician suspects eye problems throughout the first few years of life or if there is a history of eye disease in the family.  Learn more about the most common childhood eye conditions and how they can be treated.

Care properly for contact lenses.

For people with vision limitations, contact lenses are game-changers. By developing a daily routine and good habits early, contact lens wearers can reduce the risk of infection substantially. As described by Dr. Ranya Habash, an ophthalmologist with Bascom Palmer, the most common contact-related issues include keratitis—inflammation of the cornea that can be caused by bacteria, virus, or fungi—and corneal ulcers, which create “a divot” on your cornea that can cause scarring and vision loss. Wearing contacts limits the amount of oxygen getting to the cornea, making it more prone to infections, according to Habash. Without proper cleaning, contacts can become infected through germs in the environment that can grow on the lens. Learn more about best practices for contact lens care, including what not to do.

Explore a revolutionary procedure.

Experts at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute have been at the forefront of laser corrective surgery. Celebrating 25 years of LASIK at Bascom Palmer, Dr. William Culbertson, ophthalmologist and medical director at the Bascom Palmer LASIK and Laser Vision Center, noted that refractive surgery began 40 years ago in 1980 with radial keratotomy. Culbertson added that Bascom Palmer was among the first institutes to receive an excimer laser—used for laser corrective surgery—in 1994 when it was approved for use in the United States. 

Since the first surgery in 1995, patients at Bascom Palmer have benefited from a procedure with little down time—being able to see the next day without use of glasses—and are able to take part in a number of activities without the hassle of glasses or contact lenses. Learn more about the evolution of LASIK, including how Bascom Palmer is adapting during the pandemic.

Protect yourself from COVID-19.

By now most people know that the coronavirus spreads readily through tiny virus particles when someone coughs, sneezes, or speaks. Breathing in these droplets through the mouth or nose leads to infection. But the virus also can enter the body through the eyes they are contaminated. Along with following CDC guidelines, Dr. Donaldson encourages you to avoid touching your face and to regularly wash your hands vigorously for 20 seconds with soap and water. Or, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Learn more about how to properly care for your eyes during a pandemic.

Among the evolving data around COVID-19, doctors have found a relationship between viral conjunctivitis—an eye infection that is characterized by pink or red eyes that are often watery or have secretions—and positive cases of COVID-19. But Dr. Florence Cabot, ophthalmologist at Bascom Palmer, stresses the importance of keeping in mind other possible and more common causes of conjunctivitis, including allergies, bacteria, or other viruses, such as the adenovirus. Know the appropriate time to contact your doctor—if the symptom is accompanied by fever, shortness of breath, or coughing—who can advise patients on whether they need to visit the eye clinic or emergency room. 

Dr. Habash notes that new developments in telemedicine are making eye care safer and more efficient for patients. With these advancements, Bascom Palmer specialists are now able to help patients from anywhere in the world with a mixture of virtual and in-person visits. Learn more about telemedicine at Bascom Palmer.

Avoid the fog.

While necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, masks can be a challenge for people who wear glasses. Foggy lenses as you breathe in and out makes it hard to navigate your surroundings. Dr. Stephanie Frankel, an optometrist with Bascom Palmer, suggests opting for a mask with an adjustable nose piece, which helps the mask fit snuggly against your nose and cheeks. Whether you sew it yourself or purchase it from a store, adding a strip of surgical tape over the mask also can help reduce the chance of fogging up. Get more tips and learn why masks are so important to wear.

Access the medical care you need at a UHealth facility or via telehealth by scheduling an appointment. Find additional information or call 305-243-4000.  

Live Well with UHealth is a series that highlights curated content from articles previously published on UMiami Health News, a site that shares health tips and insights into research discoveries that change lives, brought to you by the experts at the University of Miami Health System. This story highlights the following articles.