By Camille Gillies
Never underestimate the importance of getting your annual eye exam.
For example, did you know that damage to your eyes can occur long before a diagnosis of a disease like diabetes? In the early stages of diabetes, swelling and bleeding may occur in the eye, and an ophthalmologist can detect the problem, treat it with laser therapy and save the patient from severe vision loss down the road. With more than 7 million cases of undiagnosed diabetes in the U.S., chances are you or someone you know would benefit from a comprehensive eye examination by a quality, caring ophthalmologist.
Ophthalmologist Gretta Fridman, M.D., shared this information while conducting a tour of her brand-new office at New Tampa Eye Institute, located in Summergate Professional Park, behind Sam’s Club, off S.R. 56, in Wesley Chapel. With the smell of fresh paint still lingering in the air, Dr. Fridman (pronounced “Freed-man”) explained that although ophthalmologists perform surgery and treat serious eye conditions, general eye exams are part of the practice, too. Unlike an optometrist, however, an ophthalmologist is a medical doctor with either an M.D. or D.O. degree who has special training and skills to diagnose and treat all diseases and disorders of the eye.
Dr. Fridman received much of her advanced training in Tampa while completing her residency and fellowship at the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine. She attended medical school at the State University of New York Downstate, Brooklyn, and received an undergraduate degree from Barnard College, New York City.
Well-versed in all aspects of ophthalmology, Dr. Fridman specializes in treating diseases of the eye, including:
• Cataracts, or the clouding of the eye’s lens, which can lead to blurry vision, and surgery is the only way to remove them. Symptoms include a painless blurring of vision, light sensitivity, poor night vision, double vision in one eye, needing brighter light to read and fading or yellowing of colors. The most common cause of cataracts is age, but other contributing factors include family history medical problems (such as diabetes), eye injury, medications (especially steroids), radiation, long-term, unprotected exposure to sunlight and previous eye surgery.
• Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve and a leading cause of blindness. It can damage nerve fibers and increase pressure inside the eye. Since symptoms are not noticeable until the damage has already occurred, preventing blindness from glaucoma is another reason to keep up with your eye exams. Glaucoma is often controlled with eye drops, but Dr. Fridman, who has a subspecialty in glaucoma, says she will perform surgery when the condition cannot be controlled through other means. Risk factors for glaucoma include age, elevated eye pressure, a family history of glaucoma, being of African or Spanish ancestry and past eye injuries.
“You think of glaucoma as affecting seniors, but it affects a younger population, too,” Dr. Fridman explains. “Certain types of it can run in families.”
• Ocular Surface Disorders stem from tear duct and eyelid abnormalities. These include blepharitis (an inflammation or infection of the eyelid) and conditions such as dry eye. Dry eye may be treated with punctal plugs (devices inserted into the tear duct to block drainage), prescription drugs or surgery.
A Caring, Friendly Approach
Dr. Fridman says she chose ophthalmology as her field of expertise because it’s a mixture of surgical and medical specialties. “And, you see the same patients year after year,” she adds. “Because repeat visits are necessary, you really do get to know your patients.”
In fact, thanks to her residency at USF, she has gotten to know many patients at the James A. Haley Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital on Bruce B. Downs Blvd. in North Tampa. She also practiced at the Orlando VA Medical Center, but the 90-mile commute became too much travel, so she is concluding her work in Orlando, but continuing on staff part-time at the Tampa VA hospital. “I enjoy the patient population there,” she says.
Dr. Fridman runs her practice with a personal approach. “We will spend as much time as needed with each patient,” she says. “This is a patient-centered practice, where I really try to address the individual problems and concerns of every patient.”
Flex Hours, High-Tech Office
The office accepts most medical insurance plans and offers flexible hours. To accommodate busy schedules, New Tampa Eye Institute is open Thursday nights and every other Saturday, with same-day appointments available for emergencies.
The facility is equipped for laser surgery, and if surgery in an operating room is necessary, Dr. Fridman performs such procedures at the New Tampa Surgery Center, located nearby on Cypress Ridge Blvd.
Dr. Fridman says her husband, Michael Alperovich, has been instrumental in constructing and opening the new office, which is totally paperless.
“We have the latest medical records technology and state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment,” he says, indicating that one of the exam rooms was designed specifically for wheelchair accessibility.
The couple moved to New Tampa in 2007 and is excited about the growth potential of this new venture. According to Dr. Fridman, ophthalmologists are scarce in the New Tampa/ Wesley Chapel area.
“At one time, the closest ophthalmologist (to Wesley Chapel) was in Zephyrhills,” she says, adding that she eventually plans to expand the New Tampa Eye Institute to include other subspecialties, including oculoplastics, which involves plastic surgery of the eye. She also is enthused about the addition of Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, where she hopes to have operating room privileges.
“We love New Tampa and Wesley Chapel and want to raise our kids here as well as work here,” she explains. The couple lives in Hunter’s Green and has two daughters, ages 3 and 6.
For more information, call the New Tampa Eye Institute (27348 Cashford Circle, off S.R. 56 and Ancient Oaks Blvd.) at 994-7000 in Seven Oaks. The office’s website, NewTampaEyes.com, is currently under construction, but should be online soon.