Meet a Specialist: Lucia Sobrin, M.D., MPH

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As a dually trained retina and uveitis specialist, Dr. Lucia Sobrin has unique expertise diagnosing and treating rare and complicated eye disorders that affect the middle (uvea) and back (retina) portions of the eye. “Several years ago,” Dr. Sobrin reflected, “there were no treatments for some of these eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In recent years, advancements in translating bench-to-bedside research–some of which have happened right here at Mass. Eye and Ear—have allowed us to develop new procedures and therapies for AMD, which are helping to restore and preserve sight in many people.”

Dr. Sobrin, a full-time clinician scientist with the Uveitis and Retina Services at Mass. Eye and Ear, cares deeply for her patients and feels deep gratitude when she can make a big impact on their vision in a simple and fast way. “Treating an acute episode of anterior uveitis is one example,” she said. “Steroid drops usually work quickly to alleviate pain and improve the patient’s vision. That’s what I call instant gratification—for the patient and for me!”

Uveitis is the term for a range of inflammatory diseases that can result from many causes, including injuries, infections, autoimmune disorders and systematic diseases.

Other patients who suffer from chronic eye disease, such as those with AMD, might require long-term care. Most AMD patients, for example, come in to Mass. Eye and Ear monthly to receive eye injections that often help slow or reverse progression of the disease. According to Dr. Sobrin, “Though the treatment duration for patients with chronic diseases is much longer, building relationships with these patients and helping them navigate long-term care is so gratifying.” Her patients, also, are appreciative of this long-term commitment to their vision health.

One patient—a 37-year-old male with lupus—came to see her after many frustrating conversations with other doctors, who were limited by their lack of knowledge about his condition. Lupus is a rare, chronic, inflammatory disease that occurs when the body's immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems—including the eyes. The patient sought out Dr. Sobrin because she understood the complexity of his eye disorder and, specifically, how his lupus was affecting his vision.

Expertly trained to diagnose and treat complicated cases of eye inflammation and uveitis, Dr. Sobrin created a treatment program with her patient that involved not only medication adjustments and laser treatments, but also surgery to remove excess retinal fluid. Within two years, the patient’s vision had stabilized and the inflammation decreased.

“It was a long haul for him,” reflected Dr. Sobrin. “But we were able to control his lupus and he was able to go back to work, which was simply not possible before. It was a complicated process with many steps, and completely worth it. Now, he has his health and his eyesight.”

When not in the clinic, Dr. Sobrin—a Department of Ophthalmology Scholar at Mass. Eye and Ear—conducts research on the genetics of diabetic retinopathy in African Americans. Diabetic retinopathy is a common, blinding complication of diabetes, which seems to develop more often, and progress faster, in African Americans compared to other racial groups. Through collaboration with the Jackson Heart Study and the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Dr. Sobrin hopes to identify genes and other risk factors of the disease, so that she will be better able to counsel African Americans about their chances of developing retinopathy.

As a member of the Harvard Ophthalmology Diabetic Eye Disease Center of Excellence and the Ocular Genomics Institute at Mass. Eye and Ear, Dr. Sobrin expresses high hopes that great advancements are on the near horizon. “If genes associated with diabetic retinopathy are found, they may provide information for developing new treatments for diabetic retinopathy,” she said, “and that’s good news for people everywhere.”

Conversationally fluent in French and Spanish, Dr. Sobrin completed her Ophthalmology residency at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in 2003, a Medical and Surgical Retina fellowship at Mass. Eye and Ear in 2005, and a uveitis and ocular immunology fellowship at the Massachusetts Eye Research and Surgery Institute in 2006. She also received her Master of Public Health Degree from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2008. She shares her in-depth knowledge of rare and complex cases with uveitis and retina fellows as well as ophthalmology residents.

Contact Dr. Sobrin’s office at 617-573-4279.

View Dr. Sobrin’s online bio for more information.

Request an appointment.