Bridging the Gap Between Conventional and Integrative Eye Care - Yuri A/Shutterstock

When treating a patient, you can either scratch the surface of an issue and wait until it turns into something major or intervene early with preventative measures, said Neda Gioia, OD, CNS, FOWNS, CFMP. This is true with any form of healthcare, she explained, and optometry is no exception.

"Unfortunately, the conventional model is reactive," said Dr. Gioia. "The integrative model is about preventing patients from going down the road of having health issues in the first place, catching their problems early on.”

Unlike the conventional approach, integrative eye care is about connecting the dots between problems within the eye and the rest of the body. According to Dr. Gioia, there are a few key factors that distinguish integrative eye care from the conventional model, including:

Getting a detailed patient history

According to Dr. Gioia, getting a detailed patient history is one of the most critical steps while treating patients. In addition to a general medical history, Dr. Gioia makes sure to ask about:

  • Diet and lifestyle factors: Not only does she address smoking, alcohol use, and physical activity with her patients, but Dr. Gioia also makes sure to go into detail about their diets to get a better picture of any nutrient deficiencies.
  • Medications and supplements they are taking: It’s important to ask patients about both medications and supplements. “Patients might be taking [supplements] arbitrarily, thinking that they’re helping when they may actually be making the patient’s condition worse or interacting with other medication.”

Examining the eye through a whole health lens

In her clinical examinations, Dr. Neda Gioia delves deeply into potential underlying health issues. For instance, she observes the presence of Arcus, a ring in the cornea often linked to aging and elevated cholesterol levels. Upon noticing Arcus, Dr. Gioia inquires about her patients' cholesterol levels, sometimes discovering borderline cases even in young, healthy individuals. In that case, she would explore further, either testing hormones herself or referring patients to appropriate specialists.

“I try to connect the dots for them, and sometimes it doesn't lead to anything, but other times it leads to serious findings," said Dr. Gioia.

Conducting functional medicine testing

Dr. Gioia incorporates functional medicine testing into her practice by proactively conducting lab tests to identify nutrient deficiencies and other health imbalances. She frequently asks her patients about their levels of essential vitamins, such as vitamin D, and investigates potential deficiencies or conditions related to their eye health and overall health.

Collaborating with Other Health Professionals

To provide truly comprehensive care, Dr. Gioia actively collaborates with other healthcare providers, often partnering with nutritionists, dietitians, and holistic care providers. "I love collaborating with nutritionists because they are often already treating the patient from one angle, and I just have to tweak certain things,” she explained.