The husband-and-wife optometry team of Dr. Anjli Patel and Dr. Hiten Patel have joined the staff of Galo Eye Care Centers in Del Rio and Uvalde and are ready to help patients in the area with all of their eye care needs.

A native Texan, Dr. Hiten Patel grew up in Kerrville.

After high school, he attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a degree in biochemistry.

He took a year off to decide what he wanted to do, then went back to school at the University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry.

“I graduated in May of this year and then joined the Galo Eye Care staff in July,” Patel said.

Patel said he has grown passionate about optometry.

“As I went through school, I learned that it’s about so much more than giving people glasses and contacts. It was very inspiring to me. There are so many diseases and so many things that can affect vision, and we, essentially, are the ones who catch those things. To me, that was very inspirational,” Patel said.

He noted many patients go to an optometrist saying they are having problems with their vision and believing they need glasses.

“Then you do the full comprehensive exam and it turns out they’ve had diabetes they didn’t know about for the last 25 years, and glasses aren’t going to fix the problem. Now, we need to direct you to the correct avenues, and I really think that as an optometrists, we are primary care providers for the eyes,” he said.

Patel noted “simple” visits to the optometrist for a routine eye exam have resulted in the discovery of life-threatening conditions or diseases, which can then be dealt with appropriately.

“I really like that we are, in a sense, the gate-keepers of someone’s overall health. If there are problems in your eyes, it means that there are problems somewhere else, so we might need to send you back to your primary care doctor or we may need to send you to a nephrologist because your kidneys are failing. I really found passion in that part of optometry,” Patel said.

But Patel said glasses and contacts, too, can change a patient’s life, giving him or her more access to the world. He noted technology is constantly changing and improving.

“The technology has improved vastly. We have things like bifocal contacts now that a lot of people don’t know about,” he said.

Another example he gave was that now patients can be completely free of glasses after cataract surgery.

“It’s our job to be in tune with our patient base and be up-to-date on everything like that,” he said.

Patel recommended everyone should have their eyes checked at least once a year.

“You don’t go to your primary care doctor just when you’re sick, or you shouldn’t, it’s the same principle. Especially if you have a condition like diabetes. I know in south Texas and in other places where there is a large Hispanic community, diabetes is very prevalent,” Patel said.

He said the American Academy of Optometry recommends parents bringing in their children at six months, a year and at five years of age for eye examinations.

He noted Galo Eye Care Centers is currently offering a “school special” for persons who may not have insurance and who may make too much to be on Medicaid.

“It includes an eye exam and a pair of glasses for $100. We’re doing this to keep these kids from falling through the cracks,” Patel said, adding the special will run through the end of September.

At Galo, Patel does full, comprehensive eye exams, a refraction test and a check of eye pressures. Patel will also dilate a patient’s eyes to be able to closely examine the optic nerve, the macula and the retina.

“We do pretty much any kind of eye health issue, and if we can’t do it, we refer to the appropriate place. We just want to make sure everything is nice and normal,” he said.

Dr. Anjli Patel was born in Tucson, Ariz., but grew up in Amarillo, Texas.

“I lived there until I finished high school, then moved to San Antonio to do my undergraduate work and optometry school,” Patel said.

After graduating from high school, Patel said she had a fairly clear idea of what she wanted to do with her life.

“I feel that I’ve had glasses for such a long time, since I was in kindergarten, and I knew I wanted to do something in the medical field, so I was super-excited to pursue optometry. I just knew what I wanted to do, and I went with it,” she said.

She did her undergraduate work at the University of the Incarnate Word and continued on to the university’s Rosenberg School of Optometry, from which she graduated in May of this year and where she met her husband, Dr. Hiten Patel, who was also attending school there.

“We both wanted to practice in a small town in rural Texas, and there was an opportunity to practice both in Uvalde, at the Galo Eye Care Center, and in Del Rio, so we took both positions in July,” she said.

Patel said she likes the intimate feel of practicing optometry in a small town.

“I love it because it’s so family-oriented. Growing up, family was super-important to me, and that’s how I want to treat my patients and help my patients. Everyone is always super-friendly, and that’s my favorite part about coming to work, seeing happy patients and caring for them,” Patel said.

Like her husband, Patel offers patients a full, comprehensive eye exam.

“We do kids, a lot of pediatrics, primary care, the regular yearly exams, specialty contact lenses and regular contact lenses, and we also love helping out our geriatric patients. We do full diabetic exams, glaucoma screening, because that is one of the challenges here,” Patel said.

“We’re super-excited to help out the community and do as much as we can for everyone,” she added.

Eye exams are for “anyone and everyone.”

“Everyone needs an eye exam every year. They’re super-important. There are so many diseases of the eye that go undetected and we can help people, if we catch it early enough,” she said.

“I’m excited to meet everyone. We’re very excited to be in the community,” she said.

Galo Eye Care Center is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. For an appointment, call (830) 775-2020.

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