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Interview with Ophthalmologist Paul Dougherty, M.D.

Dr. Dougherty

Tell me a bit about your professional background. How long have you been in the ophthalmology field?

I have been a practicing ophthalmologist since 1993, specializing in LASIK and cataract surgery. I did my ophthalmology training at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at the UCLA School of Medicine, where I serve on the clinical faculty as a Clinical Instructor of Ophthalmology. I have published extensively in the ophthalmology literature, am a consultant for multiple ophthalmic companies and I am a principal investigator for 5 different FDA Trials for new techniques and technology in cataract and laser vision correction.

Do you see quite a bit of UV damage on patients' eyes from years of overexposure to sunlight without the appropriate protection?

Absolutely. The two UV related problems in the eye that I see most often are cataracts and macular degeneration (the leading retinal cause of blindness in the US).

What treatments are available, if any, for this type of damage?

For cataracts, cataract surgery. For macular degeneration, the treatments are not always effective, but laser, anti-neovascular therapy and vitreous surgery can sometimes slow down progression of the vision loss.

What symptoms might a person notice if they've got glaucoma or cataracts?

  • Cataracts--blurry vision, glare.
  • Glaucoma--"The Silent Blinder": many people will not have symptoms until the very end, then they will complain of loss of central vision.

Some people tend to wear hats to protect their eyes (and skip sunglasses); how useful *is* that, compared to wearing sunglasses?

Hats certainly help, but they do not block UV rays. To appropriately protect the eyes from the sun, sunglasses are required.

Do you have a favorite line of sunglasses that you recommend to your patients so that they can look good while still protecting their eyes?

As long as they have UV blockage, they all are effective. I do not necessarily favor one brand over another; patients need to make the decision based on their own personal preferences.

If a young person hasn't made it a habit to wear sunglasses outside, but wishes to start now, is the damage to their eyes reversible?

Not reversible, since UV damage to the eyes is cumulative, but as soon as sunglasses begin to be worn, their exposure and risk of problems later in life will be minimized.

What is your opinion on the effectiveness of photochromic lenses?

From a protection standpoint, they work fine since they block UV rays. From a comfort standpoint, some patients like them, some patients are bothered by having the glasses remain dark after going indoors.

Do you have any tips on finding sunglasses for children with the required UV protection, and tricks for making the child keep them on?

Most optical shops and companies make sunglasses intended for children. Virtually all block UV rays. In terms of keeping them on, appeal to peer-pressure--emphasize to the child that they look good in sunglasses and all of the older kids that they look up to wear them outside.

As long as polarized lenses come with 100 percent UV protection, are they actually any better for your eye health than non-polarized lenses?

Not necessarily. While they can cut down on glare, they decrease the amount of available light for vision. Again, use of polarized lenses is based on personal preference.

Interview with Ophthalmologist Paul Dougherty, M.D.