What can you do to protect your eyes from the harshness of winter?
That’s probably not the advice you expected, but it’s the top tip offered by Dr. Lawrence V. Najarian, an ophthalmologist who has been helping patients see better during a career that spans more than 33 years.
In addition to blocking harmful UVA and UVB rays that increase the risk of cataracts, the proper sunglasses protect the eyes from traumatic injuries.
“People associate sunglasses with summer activities, but they should also be worn all year round,” says Najarian, an avid skier and kayaker and the founder and medical director of Bedminster Eye & Laser Center, which also has offices in his hometown of Teaneck. “Winter sports can present danger: Your eyes can get sunburned by the light reflected off the snow and every year, there are people who get hit in the eye with snowballs.”
While you’re putting on your sunglasses, you might also want to put out your cigarettes, he adds, because smoking increases the risk not only of cataracts but also of macular degeneration, a common eye disorder for those who are 50 and older.
“Actually, the precautions that people have been taking during COVID—washing their hands and keeping their hands away from their eyes—have cut down on conditions like colds and pink eye,” he says.
Despite the best health-care practices, though, accidents do happen, which is why Najarian’s offices are open six days a week. (He attends to emergencies 24/7.)
“We offer routine and specialized medical care, such as cataract and glaucoma surgery, and we also have an optical shop,” he says, adding that he has performed more than 10,000 cataract surgeries since he opened his first center in 1988. “Our trademark is to be the best small practice and to treat each patient as a VIP. We do not believe that doctors are interchangeable, which is the way big clinics sometimes operate. Taking time to get to know patients is very important to their overall health care.”
Najarian, a self-described night owl who works from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. and is so available via smartphone that he often recognizes his patients’ voices when they call, devotes a significant amount of time to philanthropy and teaching.
For three decades, he has been a voluntary faculty member at New York University and at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, and for the last 11 years, he has been president of the Armenian American Health Professionals Organization, a charitable group that provides health education and health-care services to underserved populations in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut as well as in Armenia, the home country of his immigrant parents.
Through that organization, Najarian has led medical missions to Armenia, facilitated the donation of a $1-million microsurgical training laboratory, helped provide training to physicians in rural villages and raised money for telehealth programming.
Najarian, a Diplomate of the American Board of Ophthalmology, an Eagle Scout and an Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipient as well as a husband and father of three adult children, also regularly gives lectures to New Jersey community groups on good health practices to facilitate the prevention and early detection of eye disease.
“The concept of giving back is something that was ingrained in me,” he says. “I come from a family of philanthropists, and I was always taught to help others.”
The workload may be great, he says, but the rewards are even greater.
“I’m now seeing a fourth generation of patients,” he says. “It makes life rewarding to be able to help people.”
Find out how to keep your eyes healthy at bedminstereye.net.