Sydney ophthalmologist Dr Athena Roufas on the need for regular eye checks

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Dr Athena Roufas is a Sydney based Ophthalmologist who operates as an anterior segment surgeon, specialising in cornea, glaucoma and cataract surgery.

Along with an impressive career in Ophthalmology, Dr Roufas went on to complete sub-specialist training in Glaucoma at Westmead Hospital in Sydney and a further two years training in Cornea/Anterior Segment Trauma at the prestigious King’s College Hospital in London.

Dr Roufas currently practices at 100 Carillon Ave, Newtown (RPA Medical Centre) in the Sydney suburb of Newtown. The centre also has a Greek-speaking receptionist.

In an interview with The Greek Herald, Dr Roufas discusses the importance getting regular eye checks and prioritising your eye health.

Tell us about your journey in Ophthalmology. What was the driving factor that led you to this career choice?

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to become a doctor.  I was always fascinated by how the human body worked and also wanted to work in a field that helped people. During my studies in medical school at UNSW, I became interested in surgery and this interest was reinforced during my internship year at RPAH and I knew I wanted to specialise in a surgical field.  During my residency year at RPAH I was able to gain some early experience in ophthalmology by seeing patients who presented with eye complaints in the emergency department.  It was here that I saw the eye magnified at the slit lamp for the first time at it was literally love at first sight.  I became fascinated by all things eye related.  I liked that ophthalmology was a mix of medicine and surgery. I was also drawn to the fact that as an ophthalmologist you are helping people improve their sense of sight.  This led me to study a Masters of Medicine (majoring in Ophthalmology) at Sydney University whilst I continued to work as a junior doctor at RPAH.  I then was fortunate enough to be accepted into the ophthalmology training program in Sydney where I was able to gain my general training in ophthalmology. 

Tell us about the specialties that you focus on in your field, and why they are so important to you.

Following my general ophthalmology training I completed further training in glaucoma at Westmead Hospital in Sydney.  I then travelled to the UK and undertook a further 2 years of training in corneal surgery (and anterior segment trauma) at the Kings College Hospital in London.  On my return to Australia, I spent some time with renowned refractive surgeon Dr Michael Goggin in Adelaide.  So, my areas of specialty are cataract and refractive surgery, cornea and glaucoma.  My surgical focus is on the front of the eye as this is an important powerhouse area of the eye.  The cornea and lens are the main focusing powers for the eye and allow a clear window for the eye to see through and so, are very important structures for good vision.  In glaucoma, the aim is to maintain an optimal intraocular pressure to prevent damage to the optic nerve, which is a vital structure as it is what sends the picture we see to the brain and allows these images to be processed. 

Why do you think it is so important for people to get their eyes checked? Is it something that you think people underestimate the importance of?

It is incredibly important for people to have their eyes checked regularly, especially after the age of 40.  Earlier if there is a family history of eye issues or there are any concerns.  Regular eye checks are necessary, especially as we get older. Most age-related eye conditions can be managed effectively with an early diagnosis. Unfortunately, people can underestimate the importance of regular eye checks and when they do present, they already have advanced disease or irreversible damage to their eyes and vision. That is why regular checks are so important.  They allow the early diagnosis of eye conditions and can prevent permanent damage to vision with early intervention.   

Could you describe what cataract surgery is and why people would need that procedure done?

As we all get older, the clear lens in our eye continues to grow.  As it grows, the lens becomes cloudy and forms into a cataract.  A cloudy lens causes a reduction in vision as light is blocked from entering the eye by the cloudy lens (cataract).  Cataract surgery is when the cloudy lens is removed and a new, clear lens is put in its place.  This new lens allows light to enter the eye again and so, improves vision. People require cataract surgery when their lens has become so cloudy it is impairing their vision.

What is the most common factor, in your opinion, that leads to the need for cataract surgery?

Age is the most common cause of cataract.  Cataracts usually cause a gradual decline in vision and this is what most often prompts people with cataracts to present to an eye specialist for an eye check. 

What is your message to people who are hesitant about their eye checks or don’t place enough importance on them?

Please get your eyes checked regularly.  Vision is such an important sense and should not be taken for granted.  The eyes are delicate structures that are constantly changing as we age.  Regular eye checks can pick up changes sooner rather than later.  I strongly recommend that anyone over the age of 40 get their eyes checked regularly.  Of course, younger people should also get their eyes checked if there is a family history of eye issues or there are any visual symptoms or concerns.

*This is a sponsored post.

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