Health Cover Stories

A New View: SLUCare Physician Group

The eyes are our windows to the world, and anything obstructing that view can diminish our quality of life. Shireen Qalbani, 67, had poor peripheral vision and was avoiding night driving, all because of her droopy eyelids. Searching for a solution, she turned to Dr. Gabriela Espinoza, a SLUCare Physician Group ophthalmologist and ocular plastic surgeon.

Espinoza, whose focus is entirely on the eyes, recommended an upper eyelid blepharoplasty, a surgical eyelid repair. “In the upper eyelid, the procedure can get rid of excess skin that causes wrinkles or a fullness of the eyelid,” Espinoza notes. “In the lower eyelid, it can get rid of bags, smooth out wrinkles and help with dark circles.”

SLUCare-SS-_8Many of Espinoza’s patients land in her office wanting a cosmetic fix, but often they end up with functional improvements, too. And although blepharoplasties are not normally covered by insurance, if it’s done to improve peripheral vision, like in Qalbani’s case, an exception is sometimes made. “The extra skin can act like a baseball cap, which can cause people to have trouble seeing above them—I’ve had patients who regularly bump into cabinets or doors because they just don’t see them,” Espinoza says. “They may have difficulty reading for long periods of time or keeping their eyes open at night—these patients tend to compensate by lifting their eyebrows, which can be exhausting.”

The goal with eyelid surgery is to achieve a natural look, says Espinoza, who strives to provide completely individualized care. “Every person’s body is different, everyone’s eyes are different,” she explains. “I want to give patients a natural look that doesn’t look overdone—like you’ve just had a wonderful vacation. It’s a subtle change, but it makes people appear happier, rested and relaxed.”

That’s exactly the result she achieved with Clifford Aerie, who had both his upper and lower eyelids repaired a few years ago. “He had excess skin and droopiness of the upper eyelids, which was impairing his peripheral vision, and he also had fairly pronounced bags, so I did a complete eyelid makeover,” Espinoza says. Aerie reports that Espinoza immediately put him at ease. “We talked about that people are how they feel about themselves,” he says. “I found I was beginning to not look people in the eye.” Afterward, Aerie told Espinoza that his friends couldn’t even tell that he’d had surgery—they just thought he looked well-rested. “The results are great, and I feel that it’s helped psychologically,” he adds.

For Qalbani, having her eyelids repaired has made a huge difference. “My peripheral vision was getting worse,” she says. “My eyes are so much more open now—I’m in heaven. Dr. Espinoza told me I could call her anytime, but I don’t need to because it looks so beautiful.”

Pictured: Dr. Gabriela Espinoza with Clifford Aerie
Photo courtesy of SLUCare Physician Group

Pictured on the cover is Dr. Gabriela Espinoza, a SLUCare Physician Group ophthalmologist and ocular plastic surgeon who offers upper and lower eyelid repair surgeries at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital South Campus at 1755 S. Grand Blvd. For more information, call 314.256.3200 or visit
Cover design by Julie Streiler | Cover photo courtesy of SLUCare Physician Group


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