By Scott Sedlacek, OD
Optometry is in a prime position to change the practice of medicine and the economics of the entire healthcare system.
Every day Optometrists care for young and old with good health and system disease. We are scientifically trained, easily accessible, and trusted. We are a unique specialty because of our ability to learn new science and implement it en masse as our historical timeline proves. We moved from the invention of the phoroptor to DPAs, then TPAs to Lasers, and now perform injections and minor surgeries. What’s next?
Epigenetics – It is the most valuable emerging science that a doctor can use. Some day, we will look back and see that taking hold of this science was the seismic shift that cemented our relevance as primary health care doctors. The need for expensive, acute, sick care, which is what the current system provides, will be replaced with one that defers and mitigates disease through wellness and prevention. This will be accomplished by implementing the principles of Epigenetics. This is THE paradigm shift that has forward thinkers in Optometry (and Ophthalmology) on the move.
What is Epigenetics? It is the field of science that integrates genetics, food choices, targeted nutraceuticals, hormones, lifestyle and health history. The goal is to create a personalized care plan so that one may lead the healthiest life possible despite the genetics with which they were born. Epigenetics is objective and treats the cause of disease by finding treatable abnormalities of genetics and biochemical physiology.
Epigenetics includes Nutrigenomics, which precisely uncovers which foods should be avoided or eaten in moderation, based solely on one’s genetics. Further, it integrates the knowledge of individual food allergy. This provides the most comprehensive food report that when implemented, reduces inflammation in the eye and body and symptoms as varied as gastrointestinal upset, fatigue, and migraine.
Epigenetics includes optimizing the Methylation Pathway. Also called one carbon metabolism, this pathway has been the focus of over 20,000 literature articles, including all the common eye diseases. Testing the Methylation Pathway is medically necessary to improve the management of AMD, BDR, Cataract and Glaucoma. Having said that, all patients need their Methylation genetics tested, but the need escalates if disease is present.
Epigenetics includes hormone evaluation and bio-identical hormone balancing. Hormones are crucial to maintain normal cellular physiology because they work at the genetic level. Hormonal decline is analogous to taking your foot off the accelerator in your car. Nothing good comes from hormonal decline and unfortunately it is part of aging.
Epigenetics is cellular. By its very nature it is “holistic.” You cannot use Epigenetics just for AMD because it benefits all cells in the body simultaneously. The Optometrist will prevent arthritis with Epigenetics, and the Rheumatologist will benefit AMD, if he is first to implement Epigenetics. It is universal and does not discriminate according to specialty. Controlling this approach will put Optometry on the leading edge of an integrative health team.
Epigenetics is multi-modal. We need to stop naively thinking that one drug or one vitamin is the solution to anything. Epigenetics is like chess. We are manipulating multiple modalities in the pursuit of a perfectly tuned body or to be more precise, a perfectly tuned cell. Chess is not played with one piece. Isolating nutrition or nutraceuticals in a study will not allow valid conclusions to be drawn. We must put an end to single modal care. The body is obviously complex. The future is multi-modal.
Epigenetics belongs in the realm of the eye doctor because no other specialty is as focused on evaluating cells and cell health. We use the slit lamp to examine the cornea, lens, and retina. Nuclear sclerosis is a measure of oxidative stress, leakage is from endothelial cell dysfunction, ganglion cell loss and diseases of the RPE are all cellular diseases. We are the only checkpoint for cellular health.
Armed with Epigenetics, the Optometrist can take a patient, years before they need expensive, acute, medical care and defer and mitigate their condition. The ramifications are enormous. Emergency room visits for migraine and ischemic heart disease will plummet. Fatigue and depression will plummet allowing for a more productive workforce. Insurance carriers and corporations will seek Epigenetic work-ups which can be done through Optometry as we are accessible, trusted, and capable of providing this valuable care. Best of all, there is no scope battle to fight. We simply need to be first. Epigenetics differentiates our entire profession and puts us in the best position to thrive and enjoy a future of “OD Success.”
Photo: Copyright: lightpoet / 123RF Stock Photo
Dr. Scott Sedlacek is a forward-thinking optometrist who began practicing in 1998. He owns The Eye Place, a private practice in Olmsted Falls, Ohio. In 2012 he became the Director of Optometry for xR, an innovative telehealth company that deploys personalized medicine into doctor’s offices. Dr. Sedlacek was the first Optometrist to fully embrace and implement a personalized approach to treat and prevent ocular and non-ocular illness with genetic testing and precise epigenetic care plans. He believes this valuable approach to overall wellness may allow Optometry to thrive in emerging models of health care. Contact: SLSedlacek@yahoo.com More information: www.xrmd.com/od