By Kristina Houck
Many diseases such as diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis can go undetected, but early signs can be spotted in the eyes. Through her comprehensive eye examinations, board certified optometrist Dr. Puneh Baha has detected a variety of diseases and viruses in her patients during her 13 years of practice.
“The eyes are kind of like the window to your soul,” said Baha, who can begin treatment or refer patients to their primary physicians for further evaluation, depending on the diagnosis. “We can pick up so many things in the eyes.”
After a decade in optometry, Baha opened her own practice in Del Mar in February 2011. Located in the Albertsons supermarket shopping center on Via de la Valle, Wink Optometry & Eyewear offers diagnosis and management of ocular disease, treatment for eye infections, pediatric optometry, contact lens evaluation and fitting, evaluations for LASIK and cataract and glaucoma surgery, as well as routine vision checks.
The 1,100-square-foot location also features designer-label frames such as Dior, Gucci and Fendi, and the very latest in fashion frames from designers such as Tom Ford.
“I wanted this to be a service-oriented place where patients could understand how important their eyes are,” Baha said. “In general, people think their vision is only being able to see the 20/20 line, but it’s much more than that. I just want to make sure that people understand the importance of getting exams, so we try to educate as much as we can here.”
Promoting prevention, Baha recommends annual eye exams. It’s also critical to examine children’s eyes from an early age, she said.
Baha begins seeing children at age 2 because undetected problems could result in eyes that become lazy with amblyopia, which she said can’t be corrected after the age of 7. A mother to 7-year-old twin boys and a 6-year-old daughter, Baha has checked her own children’s eyes since they were 6 months old.
Baha’s first eye exam when she was 8 years old sparked her interest in optometry.
“By that time, I was very nearsighted and my parents didn’t really know,” she said. “I thought that the leaves on trees were just in my coloring books until they gave me glasses.
“Kids are so important because it’s tough for them to know what clear looks like if they’ve never seen it.”
A native Californian, Baha grew up in Agoura Hills. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology at California State University, Northridge, where she researched retinoblastoma, a congenital cancer of the eye. In 2000, she earned her doctorate degree at the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago, along with an additional bachelor’s degree in visual science.
Baha began her career at LensCrafters in Escondido, and then worked at a few different private practices throughout the county. Nearly three years ago, Baha’s husband, a real estate broker, helped her find the location where she opened Wink Optometry & Eyewear.
Baha launched her practice with no patients, and has now seen many patients for about three years. Her stock of roughly 200 frames has grown to almost 700 frames. She also employs three opticians.