Dr Chandra Bala PersonalEYES Interview
PersonalEYES is Australia's leading network eye care clinic, with 12 surgery centres in NSW and ACT. Established by internationally recognised refractive surgeon Dr Kerrie Meades, the first female ophthalmologist to perform LASIK in Australia, personalEYES has remained at the forefront of eye care technology and procedures in Australia. In addition, personalEYES runs a Donate Glasses program that has helped thousands of vision-impaired people in the Solomon Islands through the donation of pre-loved glasses.
Interview with Dr Chandra Bala
Dr Bala graduated from the University of Sydney with class 1 Honours, completed an additional eight years of research where he was awarded a Bachelor of Science (Med) with class 1 Honours and has a PhD in ophthalmology. He completed his ophthalmic training at the Sydney Eye Hospital and Westmead Hospital. He went on to a glaucoma fellowship with Associate Professor Paul Healy at Westmead Hospital, as well as a cornea fellowship with Dr Gerrit Melles in Holland, and a refractive fellowship in Greece with Dr Ioannis Aslanides.
He has been published in leading academic peer-reviewed journals and he has ongoing involvement in teaching and training undergraduate and post graduate medical students in ophthalmology and visual science at Macquarie University.
Dr Bala is Chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee at Parramatta Eye Hospital and Day Surgery, and is Clinical Senior Lecturer at Macquarie University and Adjunct Senior Lecturer at UNSW. He is a member of the Board of Examiners for Ophthalmic Sciences, RANZCO specialist training programme. Dr Bala is fluent in English, Tamil and Hindi.
Question: What is personalEYES?
Dr Chandra Bala: personalEYES is Australia's leading network of eye clinics, with 13 specialist eye surgeons and ophthalmologists working across 12 clinics in NSW and Canberra. Many personalEYES specialists have published research in academic peer-reviewed journals. Founder and Chief Medical Director Dr Kerrie Meades is one of the most recognised ophthalmic surgeons in the world, and was Australia's first female ophthalmologist to perform LASIK eye surgery in Australia.
Question: Can you talk about the eye issues you treat on a typical day?
Dr Chandra Bala: I treat a large range of eye issues. Because we have academic and surgical specialists at personalEYES, we're regularly invited to operate with the latest technology so sometimes my day involves using new techniques to treat age-related macular degeneration, or understand a new laser technique or machine to correct vision problems. My particular speciality is the latest laser, lens and surgical technologies and techniques to correct eye conditions, but I also treat cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and retinal diseases.
Question: Can you talk about the two corneal transplants procedure?
Dr Chandra Bala: There are two types of corneal transplants for treating keratoconus. The first, deep lamellar keratoplasty (DLK) removes the diseased cornea and replaces this layer with a healthy cornea from a donor eye. In this procedure, the healthy layer remains and only the diseased layer is removed. The second is performed if there has been damage to the posterior layer and the entire cornea is replaced.
Question: How can we protect our eyes to sustain sight throughout the years?
Dr Chandra Bala: In addition to regular exercise, a healthy, balanced diet and wearing high UV protection sunglasses when outdoors, the most important thing is to have regular eye checks (at least twice a year) with your optometrist who can help spot any changes at an early stage – early diagnosis is key in treating many common eye issues.
Question: How does prolonged computer use affect our eye site?
Dr Chandra Bala: This is one of the most common questions I get asked by my patients and people I meet who find out I'm an eye surgeon. I'm interested all areas of research into the degeneration of eyesight and am constantly reading the latest studies published by eye specialists all over the world. I can honestly say, I have not seen any conclusive research that says screens damage your eyes. It is most likely that being sedentary, or seated all day, focussing on one point, is not beneficial for your general health and this may, in turn, lead to eye issues.
Question: Can you talk about the effect sunlight has on our eyes?
Dr Chandra Bala: The lens and cornea are designed to filter UV rays and protect the eye, however after doing this for many years they can become damaged, especially the lens, which can cause cataracts and eye cancers. Surfers, skiers, farmers and anyone else who spends lots of time in the mid-day sun are the most at risk and need to make sure their eyes are protected with wrap-around sunglasses.
Question: What health problems can be detected with eye tests?
Dr Chandra Bala: Eye tests can detect health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, autoimmune disorders, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, tumours and even cancer.
Question: How can we treat dry eyes?
Dr Chandra Bala: There are a number of treatment options for dry eyes, however the most common treatment options are lubricants, ointments and gels. You can also be prescribed oral and topical medications to control inflammation.
Treatment options can also include punctual plugs which are designed to temporarily block the drainage of our natural tears. Although this sounds counter-intuitive, This increases the eye's tear film and surface moisture to relieve dry eyes. Essential fatty acids have also been reported to help with dry eye symptoms. More recently there is also the lipiflow which aims to heat and massage the oil glands along the upper and lower eye lid in order to improve the lipid layer (oil layer) of a person's tears.
Question: Why are dry eyes common in Australia?
Dr Chandra Bala: Australia is known for its hot, dry climate. Because there is less moisture in the air, dry eyes are a common eye issue in Australia. The consistent use of air-conditioning , the sun and the wind are also contributing factors.
We have low humidity which will contribute to dry eyes
Question: What is Lasik eye surgery and how has it changed recently?
Dr Chandra Bala: Lasik surgery is designed to correct common vision conditions such as short and far-sightedness or astigmatism. New wavefront technology means that as well as treating your refractive error we can also adjust for subtle imperfections and scattered light errors that are unique only to your eyes; which can result in a better quality of vision.
Lasik is 20 years old in Australia and the technology has improved in all areas. We have better digital diagnostics to assess the suitability of a patient, and we can precisely predict the outcome of laser surgery, which allows to only choose patients who will see real benefits from the procedure.
Question: Who can have laser surgery?
Dr Chandra Bala: Most people have Lasik aged 20-40, although it's approved for those over 18
At age 40 or over, people start to wear reading glasses. Lasik cannot repair this
At age 60+, people begin to be at risk for cataracts, but they can still have Lasik
Lasik and other laser eye surgeries are designed to treat myopia (near sightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism, and can allow you to live without glasses or contacts.
Not everyone is a suitable candidate for LASIK eye surgery. Certain conditions and anatomical factors can increase your risk of an undesirable outcome or limit optimal LASIK results. These include, corneas that are too thin or irregular, dry eyes, pregnancy, autoimmune disorders.
Interview by Brooke Hunter