MACULAR DEGENERATION LEADING CAUSE OF VISION LOSS

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects the macula, an area inside the back of the eye in the center of the retina. This is where the eye focuses for recognizing faces and reading. The retina records images we see and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain. AMD occurs when the central portion of the retina begins to deteriorate, affecting a person’s ability to read, drive, recognize faces or colors and see objects in fine detail. AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in older adults.

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VISION IS LEARNED - AND IT CAN BE RELEARNED

Vision involves over 70% of the neural pathways of the brain. Vision is more than eye sight. Vision is the only body system that continues to develop after birth. Vision involves the way the eyes and brain interact. It takes approximately three years for the eyes to learn how to work together. When they do not, it can result in the eyes turning in (esotropia) or out (exotropia), crossed eyes (strabismus) or lazy eye (amblyopia).

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WHAT IS BEHAVIORAL OPTOMETRY?

Behavioral optometry starts with the concept that vision is learned. When we’re born, we don’t know how to use our arms, legs and hands. We also don’t know how to use our eyes. We have to learn how to integrate them with the rest of our body. The brain must process what the eyes are seeing, and then it has to integrate that information with the other senses. From a behav- ioral standpoint, seeing requires a more holistic approach, getting all the senses to work together.

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PUT AN EYE EXAM ON YOUR BACK-TO-SCHOOL TO-DO LIST

The American Optometric Association recommends preschool children receive a complete vision exam at the ages of 6 months, 3 years and 5 years. It is particularly important a child have a complete evaluation in the summer prior to entry into kindergarten. Kentucky was the first state to make a law that says you have to have an exam by a optometrist or ophthalmologist the first time you enter Kentucky public schools. The main thing is to make sure children are seeing the black/ whiteboard. About 85 percent of what your child will learn in class will be taught through visual systems, so you want to be sure his or her eyes are in prime condition.


While you may expect your eye doctor to have your child read letters off a Snellen eye chart, at Family Eyecare Associates, there is much more to an eye exam than that. One factor the doctor will look at is how well your child’s eyes work together. The eyes need to aim, move and work in coordination. Some children learn to do this properly while others do not. Weaknesses in binocular (two- eyed) vision and eye-teaming skills can cause numerous learning difficulties. A major eye problem in children is amblyopia or lazy eye. With amblyopia, the brain has learned to prefer one eye over the other. If one eye sees clearly and the other sees a blur, the brain will suppress the eye with the blur. The brain figures out the world makes more sense if it doesn’t pay too much attention to the weaker eye. To a child, this seems normal;

he doesn’t know he isn’t seeing properly. Unknowingly suppressing the weak eye keeps it from reaching its potential – and the child, too. In early childhood, amblyopia is not too problematic, but when the child goes to school, it makes learning more difficult. When the two eyes don’t work together, the child can’t make the step up to higher-level activities. Being able to properly use both eyes will help children as they transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” A comprehensive eye exam will uncover the problem and give the eye doctor options to suggest for treatment. These options include eyeglasses, eye drops or a patch.


Prepare your child for what to expect at the doctor’s office. Generally, eye exams don’t hurt and there are no shots. The optometrist will shine a light in the child’s eyes and the instruments may be unfamiliar, but there isn’t anything to be afraid of. Let your child know the eye exam is going to help him see better and do better in school. Vision is without question our lead sense. It is the primary input for learning throughout our whole lives. Because vision is learned, it can also be relearned. Children need to get off to a good start so they can be lifelong learners. They need to learn good focusing and pointing skills. Get your child’s eyes examined early so she’ll have a solid, balanced foundation for vision and learning.


DR. RICK GRAEBE

Dr. Graebe received both his B.S degree in Visual Science and Doctorate of Optometry from Indiana University. He is a Behavioral Optometrist and learning expert. He has been in private practice here in the Bluegrass area for the past 32 years.

more articles by dr rick graebe