Business & invest,
Eye specialist embracing cutting edge technology
Emily Toxward | February 8, 2017
She’s one of the first ophthalmologists on the Gold Coast to embrace the cutting edge technology of intense pulse light (IPL) therapy to help dry eye sufferers. But you won’t find Dr Cathryn Edrich singing it from the rooftops.
Instead this specialist will be steadfastly serving her patients at See View Eye Specialist Clinic; the solo practice she set up at John Flynn Hospital in Tugun six years ago. Dr Edrich says she’s dedicated to incorporating new ideas and innovations into her practice; the most recent of this is the use of IPL to help dry eye sufferers.
Interestingly, dry eye affects an estimated 20 per cent of the general population, and according to Dr Edrich this figure is likely to grow with the increasing use of electronic and media devices in our daily lives.
“Frequent exposure to air-conditioning in the office and car is another major factor contributing to dry eye symptoms, which given the climate on the Gold Coast and northern NSW, is particularly prevalent in our everyday living,” she says.
Dr Edrich first became interested in IPL treatment when hearing about it from other colleagues and their positive experiences. She then did her due diligence and looked further into the published research and data.
Upon investigation she discovered that IPL emerged as a possible therapy for patients with dry eyes, due to meibomian gland disease (MBD), who have run out of and exhausted all other treatment options.
“IPL treatment, which originated in dermatology, was observed to help patients with dry eye disease due to MBD who happened to be receiving a treatment for their skin,” Dr Edrich says.
“This serendipitous finding sparked the development of IPL treatment for dry eyes just a few years ago, with continued improvements in the IPL devices now available for use in dry eye management. I was inspired to install the IPL unit and tear diagnostics at my practice within the last six months.”
While the treatment sounds rather out there to the uninformed, IPL therapy is actually very straightforward and painless. Dr Edrich says it was a long-lasting treatment that effectively alleviates the discomfort of dry eyes in about 80 per cent of patients with evaporative dry eye disease.
The IPL therapy gently targets the nerves that supply the oil-producing meibomian glands within the eyelids, stimulating production of improved quality lubricating oils. Normal gland function is then enhanced, which in turn stabilises the tears, reducing tear evaporation and relieving the discomfort of dry eyes.
Dr Edrich says there are only a handful of practitioners on the Gold Coast who have embraced this technology but she anticipated this to grow as the benefits, ease of use, effectiveness, safety and profile of the therapy are increasingly realised.
While she’s already ahead of the game, this specialist has no intentions to rest on her laurels; she’s always looking for ways to do things and is constantly attending seminars, lecturing and writing journals.
“We live in a very exciting era in regards to emerging new technologies. I am always keen that my practice will continue to embrace the most clinically relevant developments as they come along, to the benefit of patients, by enabling the specialist to offer more.”
But Dr Edrich says it’s not just a love of eye medicine and the technical challenges of delicate microsurgery that she loves about her profession. It’s working with patients to achieve individualised and personalised treatment plans.
“No two days are ever the same and the variety of eye conditions and personalities is always interesting and stimulating,” she says.
“Probably the most satisfying part of my work is in getting to know each individual, to accompany them along their unique and varied journeys while developing a relationship in the process of enhancing their quality of life. Whether for just a few days to many years on, it is a great privilege.”
As for the future, she has no intentions to leave the Gold Coast. In fact despite emigrating here from the UK a decade ago, she has close ties to Australia. Her great grandfather moved here from Scotland in 1912 and as a child she travelled across the globe to visit family in Newcastle in NSW.
“My many memorable trips to Australia comprised some of my happiest childhood memories and I always had this hope that I might be able to retire to Australia someday. Fortunately I was offered a specialist post in ophthalmology on the Gold Coast in 2007, well before retirement and the rest is history.”
As for challenges facing her industry? Dr Edrich says keeping cutting edge technology affordable for the majority in the face of rising practice, hospital and health fund costs rise is one of the biggest.