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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VISION AND CLOSE WORK

It is interesting to note how eyesight has evolved. The vision system used to be more about looking far afield for what could be hunted and eaten – and what could hunt and eat us.


These days, people are spending more time with their gazes fixed on their computer or TV screens or cell phones. There are certain physical dynamics to this everyday phenomenon. There is a lens inside the eye that flexes and focuses, so when we look at things up close, that lens has to work extra hard. When you look at something in the distance, both eyes move in the same direction, but when you look at something close, your eyes’ pointing muscles have to cross to focus. To see the tiny letters on your phone, you have to be much more precise than when you’re looking at a tree. To keep both eyes turned in and pointed precisely is one of the most difficult things the eye-pointing muscles have to do. You are using the macula, which is located in the dead center of the retina. That extra precision requires extra effort from the eyes. Sometimes when you spend too much time reading or playing on your phone, you might feel headachy, sleepy or have trouble concentrating. Close work can cause eyestrain.


One way to combat possible eyestrain is to adhere to the “20-20-20” rule. When you’re working on your computer or watching videos or texting on your phone, be sure to look up every 20 minutes. Focus your eyes 20 feet away for 20 seconds to rest them. This is also a good

time to roll your shoulders and neck to relieve the strain sitting can place on them.


More and more children nowadays are already picking up the constant phone watching habit. They also spend more time playing video games. A growing number of children in the United States (about 30 percent) are presenting as nearsighted. (It’s almost 50 percent in Asia.) The increased screen time is suspected. For children, the recommendation is to follow a “5-2-1” standard. Every day, children should eat five servings of fruits and vegetables. They should have no more than two hours total of screen time a day, including watching TV and playing video games. And they should spend at least one hour doing some type of physical activity, preferably outdoors. When children are just sitting there looking at a screen, they are not learning about their body and space. They need to explore, touch and feel so they can learn how to move in a three dimensional world. Children need to get feedback from the sensory system through movement, touch and visual and auditory stimulation. This is critical for the development of spatial awareness. It’s up to parents to help children wean themselves from their electronic addictions. One way to do that is to be mindful of your own use of your phone, laptop, iPad and other devices and lay them aside once in a while to play outside with your kids.


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