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Dr. Saffiedine, the ophthalmologist whose work remains a passion 

PAGE 32 DR SAFFIEDINE
“The eye is very precious, not just for vision, it’s the window on our body.”

These are the words of an ophthalmologist, Dr. Saffiedine, who, although he has been practising for over 33 years, retains as much passion for his profession today as when he started.

For six years, this Belgian ophthalmologist has been working in Tenerife, in his clinic in the heart of Playa De Las Américas, treating patients of all nationalities. “Eye diseases are a source of anxiety and eye care is delicate. It is very important that everyone I care for can understand what is going on, “says Dr. Saffiedine, who has an invaluable tool for this: he is fluent in six languages: English, French, Spanish, Dutch, German and Italian.

“Preventive care such as diet, physical exercise, sugar reduction, dental checks, blood pressure checks, etc. are taken up by all the media. Unfortunately, this is not the case with preventive eye care. Yet the eyes are our first organ of survival and our privileged means of contact with our world. Because the eyes are closely related to the brain and they display the real state of the blood vessels, they are the reflection of our general condition. Examining them can detect many diseases, “explains this specialist.

In Northern Europe, except in Britain, says Dr. Saffiedine, people are more aware than here of the importance of eye care. Northern Europeans are aware of the importance of consulting an ophthalmologist every three years if they have vision problems or headaches and, after the age of 42, they consult him every one to two years. “Prevention is better than cure”. This proverb has never been more relevant, with the high prevalence of illnesses such as cardio-vascular diseases, diabetes, rheumatism, cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, rarer or more serious diseases etc. that can be detected by an eye examination.

“It is advisable to consult an ophthalmologist even for simple glasses. Prescribing glasses is an art that takes into account many other factors besides the simple optical system of the eye. The eye is not a machine isolated from the rest of the body. Before prescribing glasses, everything comes into play: besides the optical disorders, the health of the different structures of the eye, the general health, the drugs taken, the effect of the drops of dilation of the pupils, even the time of the day when the exam is done etc. It requires extensive knowledge and advanced examinations before providing a prescription of adequate glasses, prescription to be given later to the optician”.

In his clinic, I was surprised to find a very different atmosphere from the usual. Nothing white, dry, cold and scary! I felt that in this spacious place, everything had been studied to create a pleasant, warm and relaxing atmosphere: from the decorative detail to the cozy seats, from the soft lighting to the relaxation areas. You feel immediately comfortable. “When you’re dealing with a problem with your eye, you are bound to get a certain amount of nervousness. At least the scenery may try to diminish it.”

In my tour of this clinic, I was taken aback by the number of sophisticated machines: lasers, scanners, angio-fluorographs, corneal topographs, auto-fluorescence retinographs and many other devices with unpronounceable names.

For the costs of his services, Dr. Saffiedine tells me to apply the same philosophy of communication. He informs the patient of what to expect. “There are no surprises, here” he said. “I always explain the ins and outs and I very rarely have a refusal to undergo an exam for financial reasons.”

This is, of course, a private clinic but, I inquired, the cost is not prohibitive. The basic consultation is 88 euros, an expense that seems to me to be worth spending for peace of mind or for a change of sight, that can change life.

The numerous diplomas posted in a discreet corner of the clinic say that Dr. Nader SAFFIEDINE is a medical doctor licensed in Belgium, from the Catholic University of Louvain. On his website, I read that he had followed the specialisation in ophthalmology in Belgium, at the Universitair Ziekenhuis van Antwerpen. As early as 1989, in Brussels, in his own private clinic, he practiced medical ophthal-mology (refraction of optical defects, contact lenses, dry eye, glaucoma, macular degeneration, etc.), laser eye treatments (of the retina, of the lens , trabeculum, iris and cornea) and ocular surgery (cataract, glaucoma, ptery-gium, chalazion etc.).

In 1994, he was a founding member and later President of the Eye-Tech Center in Brussels (EXCIMER laser center specializing in corneal refractive surgery for myopia, astigmatism, hyperopia and presbyopia where a dozen ophthalmologists and oph-thalmologists worked to-gether, including three eminent university profe-ssors). He founded Ophthal-mologie Chirugicale S.P.R.L. in 1999.

Dr. Saffiedine is a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Belgian Society of Ophthalmology, the Belgisch Oftalmologisch Gezelschap, the French Society of Ophthalmology, the Sociedad Es-pañola De Oftal-mología and the Sociedad Ca-naria De Oftalmo-logía.

I also learned that he partici-pated in humani-tarian missions in Africa as a depart-ment head and eye surgeon, in the frame of Ophtalmo Sans Frontières.

In France, Bel-gium, the United Kingdom, Germa-ny, Holland, the waiting time for an appointment with an ophthal-mologist, unless it is very urgent, can reach nine months. The wait is little different in Spain or Italy. The average waiting time for an appointment at the clinic of this specialist is nine days. His clinic, open only in the morning, also seems to be the place to go in case of an eye emergency, such as an injury or conjunctivitis.

I left the clinic of Dr. Saffiedine with the feeling of having lived an exceptionally professional, reassuring and warm moment.