Antonio Piñero Bustamante has a degree in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Seville in 1972; Doctor of Medicine in 1974; Adjunct Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Seville in 1978; Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Extremadura in 1979; Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Zaragoza from 1980 to 1987; and Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Seville from 1987-2017. Currently, he is the President of the Spanish Ophthalmology Society (SEO).
There are several studies that indicate that young Spaniards do not usually have their eyesight checked on a regular basis. How often is it convenient for people, young, old or old, to go to the ophthalmologist?
Ophthalmologists have always maintained the importance of periodic eye examinations throughout life. Initially, we advise parents to review at the beginning of school age, since we rule out refractive errors, amblyopia, which is the decrease in the vision of one eye without there being an organic cause that justifies it, in this critical period of development of the visual system, which usually ends by 9 years of age.
Young people should be checked especially if there is a family history of refractive errors or any other pathology such as glaucoma, diabetes or retinal pathologies.
From the age of forty, which is the average age of life, nature draws our attention with the appearance of tired eyes, it is as if it wanted to tell us: «Take advantage of this circumstance and get that revision, necessary, to be able to continue to maintain good eye health, good vision.
And older people, in general, take better care of themselves, value vision more, need it more and go more often. Thus we can prevent or treat degenerative problems that appear with age.
In this sense, why do you think that this percentage of the population does not attend these reviews?
I must say that parents’ concern for the good vision of their young children has increased in recent years. That said, I would say that young people do not consider having “something”, they look healthy and strong and, on rare occasions, they go. And if they do, more are those who have had a family member with problems.
On the other hand, when eyestrain appears, people buy glasses at any pharmacy or optician and continue to maintain near vision. I would advise all those people, what I have mentioned before, to remember that it is a good time to check their eyes and maintain their ocular health.
Currently, what are the most common eye conditions or pathologies?
In childhood, amblyopia and strabismus. In youth, refractive errors, we are seeing how the incidence of myopia is increasing and is currently related to work closely at those ages: mobile phones, tablets, computers, etc. In Asian countries, where myopia is endemic, they are forbidding children and young people to use it and they enhance life outdoors, they have more hours of recreation without these devices.
And in adults, pathologies such as glaucoma, which is dominated by “silent blindness” because it does not usually give symptoms, and those related to the greater survival of the population: cataracts, age-related degenerations of the retina, diabetes and what we call “dry eye”, which is an alteration of the ocular surface, for different reasons and which is usually more frequent in women.
Do you consider that the appearance or progression of eye disorders can be prevented by visiting the ophthalmologist regularly?
We are convinced that yes, logically not the entire population of the country has eye problems, but all those who have it or have a family history should do so.
There are working groups that, using artificial intelligence, can predict the risk of glaucoma or retinal disease only with an image of the fundus of the eye and, possibly, in a few years we will have App that will help us not only prevent, but also to assess the patient himself and the evolution of his pathology.
And adapting certain healthy lifestyles?
A healthy life is not just a good diet, the absence of disease, spending the day at the doctor’s office and taking pills. I believe that it is an attitude towards life where we can include from physical exercise, friendship, conversation, the outdoors, joy and everything that each one considers that makes them enjoy and feel good.
Nowadays, in any place we find the vast majority of people with their mobile in their hand and looking down. That is not healthy life. I often tell my grandchildren that their heads are very heavy and they will be hunched over from looking down so much. Therefore, I believe that ocular pathology can be taken care of and, in addition, have a healthy life.
Focusing on the Spanish Society of Ophthalmology, what is the work of this entity?
Our Spanish Society of Ophthalmology (SEO) is on its way to 120 years and has a purely scientific character, with the mission of continuing education for ophthalmologists and the care of Spanish eye health.
Thus, we seek professional and scientific excellence and innovation, both in the clinic, as well as in surgery and research. SEO has given rise to other specialized societies in different ocular pathologies, which contributes to improving teaching and the growth of subspecialties.
We also inform and advise all partners, as we have done during this pandemic, about the contagions, precautions and care to be taken in consultations and operating rooms with our patients and with each other.
Does society promote training and research?
It promotes training and research in this country where the continuing training of ophthalmologists is assumed by the Society, since public health does not do so.
Research also, through clinical trials, and with the help of Oftared and the thematic network for cooperative research in health (RETICS). Also with the different research groups included in the Carlos III Health Institute. We would like this country to provide more funds for research and take better care of the training of its doctors.
In the field of ophthalmology, what are the most current scientific and technological advances?
I would highlight three situations that have changed ophthalmology in the last two decades. On the one hand, advances in the clinic with the ability to see, understand and diagnose diseases that previously it was impossible to understand what was happening. Here technology has revolutionized our diagnostic capabilities.
On the other hand, medical and surgical therapy. Current treatments for eye diseases of immune origin, for diseases such as diabetes or degenerative diseases, such as AMD with intraocular drugs, or treatment with drugs in eye drops that allow us to control intraocular and ocular surface diseases, were unthinkable a few years ago. .
And eye surgery, which was always an elegant and precious surgery, is now much less aggressive, with excellent results in any pathology thanks to technology and of course to the skill of surgeons.
And finally the research, which has allowed all these advances and which, at present, I will only say, that we are beginning to talk about gene therapy.
Finally, what advice would you give to optimize the care of the health of our eyes?
There is a slogan that said “two eyes for life” and I would tell people who read us to think, for a moment, the value of eyes, being able to see and what would happen to them if they lost their vision.
I think they would give the advice themselves. If I have something, at least an annual check-up and, if I don’t notice anything, a check-up at age forty and then periodically.
And finally, I would tell readers what Antonio Machado said: “The eye you see is not an eye because you see it; it is an eye because it sees you ».