Verve sits down with pioneering eye surgeon Dr Dean Corbett, an internationally-renowned ophthalmologist and two-decade veteran at Auckland Eye, New Zealand’s centre of excellence for eye care, to discuss eye health and their all-new facility for dry eye.
“My interest in medicine arose from a fascination with the workings of the human body and the desire to understand it,” says the doctor. “I was fascinated by both the body’s simplicity and its complexities. The realness of it all. Of course, I also wanted to make a difference and help people.”
Dean says that he decided to specialise in ophthalmology because of its “black and whiteness”—where many interventions have immediate and predictable results. There is a certain finesse required (not to mention steady hands—Dean also previously worked part-time as an engraver, “it certainly helps with the microsurgical skills!”) to address problems within the human eye, which he compares to be analgous to a camera. “It is something that you can see and understand and can intervene to get a positive outcome, with techniques being ever-improved through ever-evolving technology. Even registrations for the Blind Foundation have been on the decline, in contrast with the ageing population, which just shows how far the practice and technologies have advanced.”
Some procedures require extreme levels of dexterity, requiring not only the use of both hands, but both feet too, with foot pedals with up to 15 buttons.
It all sounds quite stressful. How do you go about reassuring your patients during the operations?
“Some surgeons prefer complete silence, but I like a relaxed ‘normal’ environment, and talk to people throughout. I’ll try to put people at ease, take them to a different headspace so that they don’t focus on what’s happening, it can be a very seamless process. We call it verbal anaesthesia.”
How about recovery time?
“It’s very fast, typically days, but sometimes even hours. People are usually able to drive and go about their normal activities the day after surgery.”
Do most patients visit due to medical or practical reasons?
“Every ophthalmologist at Auckland Eye has different specialities. Mine is predominantly glaucoma, along with vision and focus correction to enable patients to see better without being dependent on their glasses—today there are ways and means of achieving that for nearly everyone. Our job is to understand patients’ expectations and meet them. It’s the old rule of making sure that you under-promise and over-deliver, and that’s generally what we do.”
Dean reveals that an ever more recurring problem is the issue of dry eye, caused by the amount of time sat staring at devices. “We’re using instruments that have to be at near-distance—as opposed to staring at TVs—so people are getting problems of presbyopia,” he says. “We also blink less, which when coupled with air-conditioned offices, offers a double-whammy in terms of dry eye.”
Dean describes the dry facility at Oasis Spa as “second to none”. He reveals how new technologies over the past three years have provided reliable clinical evidence that they can make a difference in eye health where there were previously few treatments other than adding lubricants, which may be effective, but don’t treat the underlying cause of the problem. “Our facility offers a 90% chance of improving symptoms,” says the doctor. “It’s akin to going to the dentist. Most people will go because they’ve been sent an appointment reminder, but the bottom line is that they don’t want to lose their teeth. If you look at elderly people who have not addressed their dry eyes, you can see that many are in discomfort. Their eyelids are red and inflamed. But it can all be avoided, and that is our aim. We want to create a whole new thought process, to encourage people to have their eyes examined to see if they are at risk at later a stage in life and provide preventative treatment. It’s going to be a new paradigm around eye treatment.”
Oasis Spa Treatments at a Glance
The initial stage of Oasis Spa’s “comprehensive assessment” for dry eye sufferers sees patients’ tear quality measured to determine the health of their Meibomian glands to work out the causation of the condition. There are then two treatment options.
LipiFlow combats evaporative dry eye which is the result of blocked Meibomian glands by opening and clearing the passage to allow the natural production of lipids—a type of oil—required for healthy tears.
Those suffering eyelid and skin inflammation will benefit from the state-of-the-art intense pulsed light treatment knowns as Optima IPL. Heat is directed at abnormal blood vessels to counter uncomfortable inflammation, with near-immediate results.