Las Vegas plastic surgeon answers questions about eye problems and treatments
We asked Dr. Steven Leibowitz, who has practiced plastic surgery and ophthalmology in Las Vegas for 23 years, about some of the eye problems he treats and how the people of the valley can help protect their eyes.
Review-Journal: What are the most common eye diseases or problems you treat?
Leibowitz: I am an oculofacial surgeon, which is a combination of plastic surgery and ophthalmology.
We are a small estate with only 700 members in our society (American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons). We perform eyelid surgery for aesthetic (such as blepharoplasty) or functional problems such as droopy eyelids, tumors and deformities. Another cosmetic facial surgery includes forehead and face lift. We also perform eye socket surgery, which refers to the bones surrounding the eye for Graves’ disease (thyroid) and tumors. We manage tearing issues, including treating dry eye, as well as rebuilding the tear system due to a blockage.
These conditions are explained in more detail on my website, drstevenleibowitz.com.
Please give our readers some eye care suggestions that would help prevent these diseases or problems.
Everyone should use sun protection from childhood. Wear sunglasses and have your children wear them. The lower eyelid is the most common place in the body for skin cancer, and these cancers are 100 percent linked to sun exposure. Exposure to the sun also contributes to the aging of the face, which I treat cosmetically on the face, forehead and eyelids.
Take regular exams. Patients should see their eye doctor or optometrist once a year for most of the conditions I treat. In addition, dermatologists often diagnose and remove malignant tumors around the eyes and then send the patient to me to reconstruct the eyelids.
If there is a growth around the eyes or elsewhere, don’t wait to have it removed. If it gets bigger, it can make it harder to rebuild, and if it’s cancer, it can spread. Tearing problems in babies should be assessed before the age of 10 months to avoid larger surgery later in life.
What is Graves’ disease, which affects it the most and how is it treated?
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease that causes the thyroid gland to become overactive, which can cause the eyes to swell. This creates a deformity and causes multiple problems including double vision, dry eyes and blindness in severe cases. Graves’ disease is one of my main interests and I am part of a group of doctors and scientists working to understand it better. We hope to find better treatments or a cure so that patients can avoid surgery altogether.
I work closely with endocrinologists to treat eye problems caused by underlying thyroid disease. While the hyperthyroidism is treated by the endocrinologist, I treat the patient to save their vision and perform orbital decompression surgery, which was initiated in my division of the Stein Eye Institute at UCLA. These new surgical techniques give much better functional and aesthetic results to rehabilitate the patient with Graves disease.
Is there anything specific to Nevada’s climate or culture that is causing issues that you are dealing with?
As we all know Nevada is a desert and it is extremely dry. Dry eye conditions are so common and are seen in all ophthalmology and optometry practices. Most people think they have an allergy to their eyes. Although allergies are common here, most of the time it is just dry eyes. Dry eyes get worse with age, wearing contact lenses, Lasik (eye surgery to correct myopia) and especially with an autoimmune disease, such as Graves’ disease. We have many new treatments for dry eye.
Unfortunately, smoking is common in Nevada. Smoking is one of the main triggers of Graves’ disease. I always try to get my patients with Graves’ disease into smoking cessation therapy.
You have practiced for 23 years in Las Vegas. Describe the changes you have observed in eye disease and treatment options as well as your goals for improving care in your specialty.
My domain has changed dramatically over time. Almost all of the surgeries I do today are different from what I learned while training at Harvard. At UCLA’s Stein Eye Institute, where I am a Clinical Associate Professor, we try new techniques every day and continue to make advancements in cosmetic and functional surgery. One of the benefits of my college appointment at UCLA is incorporating these advanced surgical techniques for my Nevada patients instead of having to refer them to UCLA or another regional eye center.
My long-term goal is to create an eye institute in Las Vegas, modeled on the Stein Eye Institute at UCLA. We have a lot of good doctors in Las Vegas, but I think our community should someday have its own top-notch university eye center. Now that we have a medical school here, my dream is closer to reality.
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