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Posted on 08-15-2013

If It Ain’t Broke, You Still Might Be Able To Fix It

Originally posted on July 30th, 2012

PREVENTIVE VISUAL CARE

Most people are not aware of the possibility of preventive visual care or what that might even mean.  We tend not to think about our eyes or our vision unless something seems wrong.  Even then many of us are likely to put off a visit to the doctor for as long as possible.  There’s another important issue as well.  Many symptoms and complaints, like headaches, dry eyes, neck pain, falling asleep when reading, eye fatigue, etc., can often be related to inadequate functioning of the visual system.  Eye teaming and focusing errors can contribute to all of the symptoms just listed.  The dots between the less than optimal functioning of the visual process and these kinds of complaints are all too often left unconnected after a routine visit to the doctor.  Typically, pediatricians, general practitioners and ophthalmologists are consulted when these symptoms arise.  They are mostly unaware of the possible connection between these kinds of complaints and disturbances within the visual process.  Behavioral optometrists are very familiar with making with these connections and then recommending appropriate and frequently successful treatment options.

It is also uncommon for parents, in search of solutions for children with reading and learning problems, to consult an eye doctor, particularly a behavioral optometrist.  More often than not the behavioral optometrist is near or at the end of the list of professionals who should be consulted.  It will not be surprising to learn that, in my opinion, behavioral optometrists should be among the first consulted for any child with developmental delays, autism spectrum behaviors, reading or learning difficulties, strabismus, amblyopia or even early signs of nearsightedness.  Unfortunately behavioral optometry isn’t even on many people’s lists at all.  Behavioral optometrists often enter the picture only after many other strategies or therapies have been considered or attempted, and even then only as the result of a chance meeting with someone who has had first-hand experience with the unique and powerful work done by behavioral optometrists, or now perhaps as a result of a fortuitous search on the internet.

The majority of health care providers don’t know what to do with a child who has learning problems.  Most eye doctors are similarly at a loss especially if that child has 20/20 eyesight.  This makes them very likely to assume that there is no vision problem involved.  All this I admit has little to do with preventive visual care, but bears mentioning at this time just the same.  The connection is that many of the problems discussed above can be prevented or certainly nipped in the bud when early intervention is placed in the hands of someone who understands these issues.

Optometry and ophthalmology, for the most part, remain uninterested and unaware of the complex nature of the visual process and how the below-expected development of the visual process or a breakdown in visual efficiency can present a staggering variety of obstacles to how a person functions day-to-day.  This is not intended as a judgment of the standard approach to visual care.  It is admittedly a poke at most formal medical education, which continues to try to reduce the health care for complex, unique individuals down to one-size-fits-all decision trees and algorithms.  Since this is the case it should not be surprising that most doctors have little or no interest in preventive visual care (or preventive health care in general for that matter).  Behavioral optometrists understand the importance of preventive visual care.

I do not get as many opportunities to practice preventive care as I would like due to the specialty nature of my practice.  Most people I see have already tried any number of other options with less than satisfactory results.  They seek me out in order to have their questions answered from a different perspective.  I still believe I have pretty thorough perspective on the issue of preventive vision care because of my extensive experience with all aspects of vision care, beginning with my first pair of distance glasses at age eight, my time as a vision therapy patient in my thirties, and over twenty years providing vision care to people of all ages and all types of visual difficulties.

What is preventive visual care?

The basic concept is simple.  The visual process for some people develops at an acceptable pace and to an acceptable degree.  There are no good statistics that show just how many of us develop our visual abilities to a suitable degree and at an appropriate age.  To be honest, there are no actual criteria describing exactly what a properly functioning visual system looks like.  I’m not saying that there should really be some strict definition of a properly functioning visual system.  Each person is unique and what works for one individual may not be the best for another.  However, there are certain levels of ability that are reasonably expected to be present as far as things like eye movements, eye teaming and focusing.  Behavioral optometrists have developed a very good idea of what to expect people of various age ranges to be able to do visually.  The rest of the medical community, and this includes the majority of general optometrists, has no interest in visual development and no real interest in the nuances of the visual process or how all of this might impact the lives of people.  The general medical community certainly has little if any interest in preventive visual care.

Next time:  The exciting conclusion of: Preventive Visual Care – hopefully it’s just the beginning

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