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The Importance of Prescribing Lenses: More Than Meets the Eye

The Importance of Prescribing Lenses: More Than Meets the Eye

Originally posted on July 18th, 2013

I have worn lenses for nearsightedness since the age of eight, which was &*% years ago. My lenses got stronger as my eyes got weaker. This eventually became one of the main reasons I decided to become an optometrist. I think the combination of my experiences with eye doctors and the things I learned (and continue to learn) as a behavioral optometrist also cause me to be especially thoughtful and cautious when it comes to other people’s lenses. I've attended several workshops and read many books telling people how to get rid of their glasses. I wasn't particularly impressed with any of them and once I became an optometrist I wrote my own. My advice? Find a behavioral optometrist who's willing to help and who understands the issues involved. I have helped hundreds of people reduce or eliminate the need for nearsighted lenses as well as those for farsightedness and astigmatism. But I digress.

Lenses change instructions and feedback to the brain.

Most lens prescriptions, particularly for those under the age of forty, are based on little more than improved distance acuity. While this is clearly (pun unavoidable) a worthwhile endeavor in many cases, there is usually much more involved. When I say there is usually more involved, what I mean is that it is extremely unlikely that someone who needs artificial lenses to see clearly has no other visual issues. These issues typically involve the quality of eye movements, the degree to which the brain is able to integrate the two eyes and the stability and flexibility of focusing. All of these are aspects of the visual process, which is dynamic, pervasive in human behavior and can be enhanced at any age.

Lenses can be used to generate positive and often dramatic improvement in the visual process. Much more than just making things look clear, they can significantly increase comfort and performance. This is why I prefer to take a broader view of lenses, the visual process and the person using them when prescribing.

Lenses affect light in a very predictable way. However, the response of any particular person looking through any given lens is much less predictable. The only real exception to this is the likelihood that people will see clearly through lenses properly prescribed to make far away things look clearer. Even this is not an absolute guarantee, but almost. In any event, the ability to see distance objects clearly is a very small part of an elegant and complex visual process.

Most eye doctors prescribe lenses based on symptoms of reduced distance acuity and little or nothing else. Sometimes lenses are prescribed to “correct” a crossed eye. Lenses for reading are rarely prescribed for anyone under forty. Lenses that enable normal (20/20) eyesight or cause a person's eyes to appear straight are not corrective lenses though that is how they are commonly described, if not defined. These lenses do not correct anything, they merely compensate for some action the doctor has decided the patient is incapable of carrying out on their own. Such lenses merely mask a symptom. These symptoms are often indicators of more complex visual development issues at the root of the symptoms. In many cases, dealing directly with the underlying issues can bring about dramatic changes, not only in the obvious symptoms, but in overall performance, comfort and visual endurance. All of this comes in very handy for school, work, driving and athletic pursuits - recreational or professional. I want to prescribe lenses that provide the most therapeutic value and least compensation possible. My job is to help people use the tremendous potential of the visual process to meet their daily needs in school, work and recreation.

Next time: The Importance of Prescribing Lenses: More Than Meets the Eye - The Sequel

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