Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Learning Related Vision Problems

Vision Therapy Needs To Be Shared 
TEDxCheltenham video 

I see too many people that indicate they have never heard of vision therapy.  In my mind this is atrocious.  Vision therapy can help to remediate so many problems.  The obvious are lazy eye (amblyopia) and crossed eyes (strabismus).  Not as well known are learning related vision problems.  The Internet is helping to get this information out to the masses. 

A recent TEDxCheltenham video goes a long way in getting this type of information out to the public.  It was done by Keith Holland from England.  He skillfully puts across ideas that need to be learned by many.  He is a comforting speaker who gets his point across - ENJOY!!

--James B. Mayer, O.D., F.C.O.V.D.
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91360

Monday, December 24, 2012

Children's Vision Warning Signs


Some of the learning problems your child faces in school may be related to vision. Even if your child has 20/20 eyesight, there may be hidden visual problems that affect your child’s understanding of school tasks. These visual problems can usually be treated with prescription eyeglasses and/or visual training. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA) nearly 25% of all school-age children in the United States have a vision problem.   

The AOA found that few of these problems extend to full blindness. Instead, they are often subtle vision problems that can impair or even prevent a child’s development. These visual inefficiencies can interfere with learning, inhibit participation in sports and other activities and create frustration for children of any age.

Unfortunately, because some visual problems related to learning are often mistaken for low motivation, rebelliousness, short attention span, or unwillingness to study, they can be hard to detect.  However, sometimes these behaviors can be symptoms of an underlying visual cause.

Parents and teachers can look for the following signs that may indicate visual problems in a child:
  • Has short visual and listening attention span; becomes easily    bored and restless
  • Loses place easily when reading
  • Suffers from car sickness
  • Trips or stumbles regularly
  • Has little or no interest in books beyond mechanical turning    of pages
  • One eye turns in or out at any time
  • Headaches, burning or itching eyes after reading
  • Complains of seeing double
  • Omits letters, numbers or phrases
  • Avoids near-centered tasks
  • Covers or closes one eye when reading
  • Does not improve, even after continued practice
If these symptoms are discovered in your child, schedule a visual examination.  A child’s vision examination differs from an adult.  A thorough developmental optometric exam of a child includes a battery of tests.   These may be new to you and provide insights not known.

--James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91360 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Children's Vision


As your children grow, you can help them adapt to the many visual changes they face. At different stages of development, a child needs different visual skills.  The toys, games and visual input you provide can help your child build a strong foundation for reading, studying and working.

For many years, people believed that newborn babies could not see. However, experts have found that infants can see up close. Young babies are attracted by faces, brightly colored objects and patterns, so give them lots of visual variety.

It’s best not to push preschoolers to read, but you can help them get ready to read by exposing children to a wide range of ideas and words.  To a young child, words on a page are just a mass of interesting symbols—this is a normal part of a child’s development and will grow into understanding later.

In kindergarten, children learn about spatial relationships that will help them cope with reading.  They learn to look at things from left to right, to differentiate form, to distinguish between curved and straight lines. Simple tasks such as coloring circles one color and squares another are a step towards reading letters later on. 

Developmental problems in children occur when they are deprived, restrained or restricted during early months and years.  Deprivation comes from insufficient exposure to a variety of experiences which prevents the visual system from developing adequate skills.  Too much restriction or restraint causes inefficient seeing habits, such as using only one eye.

As your child grows, you can watch for visual development clues and signs that might signal a problem.  Here are signs to watch for at various stages of development:

In preschool (from 5 months to 5 years), the eyes should be straight and healthy looking—watch for tilting of the head, poor coordination and balance; eyes should follow people or objects.  Your child should be able to point to an object he or she sees.  By age 5, a child usually shows an interest in books, can draw and color and knows how to write own name.

The stress of school and classwork frequently shows up around the second grade, which is the earliest stage of concentration of intensity and staying with a task.
Watch for signs of myopia (nearsightedness), like squinting or working too close to a task; headaches; squinting or burning eyes; a short attention span or losing of place while reading; covering of one eye or tilting head while reading; complaints of seeing double.

By the third or fourth grade, a sudden drop in achievement may occur. At this point, children must start using what they read. They read to learn, not learn to read. Reading must be used to learn other, more complex, areas of school work.

A state-wide study of 160,000 children in the Texas schools showed that 20% had vision problems by the time they finished first grade, and 40% by age 9. However, few children show the existence of vision problems at birth.

The visual stress on your children cannot be underestimated. We suggest that parents schedule a vision examination by age 1 (no cost to you because we are providers), age 3 and before children enter kindergarten and yearly thereafter to help prevent and treat visual problems.

--James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91360

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Learning Related Vision Problems

Learning Difficulties?  Get Vision Therapy!

Sometimes a success story from a parent will help in understanding how vision therapy can help with learning difficulties.  Maybe there are headaches or eyestrain.  Many times there will be difficulties in skipping words or lines when reading.  Visual concentration is often reduced. In the following video you will learn about anger problems with a child who had learning related vision problems.  I think you will really enjoy "Sophie's Story".  It was provided by Dr. Gabby Marshall of Bend, OR.

--James B. Mayer, O.D., F.C.O.V.D.
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91360

Monday, December 17, 2012

Infant Vision Development: Year 1


New parents will be happy to know most babies are born with healthy eyes, free from disease and vision problems.

However, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA), ten million children under the age of 12 have vision problems that make it difficult for them to cope with the visual demands of home and school. How does this happen?

First, it’s important to note there is a distinct difference between sight and vision. Sight is the reflex action of turning the eyes toward light. This is called alerting response and is observable in the newborn infant.

Vision is the process of gaining meaning from what is seen and having the skills to understand and integrate what is seen with the information received through other senses.

The increase of visual problems in children by age 12 can be attributed to the amount of nearpoint work (reading, writing, studying) required of them before their visual system is ready.

Parents can work with babies to stimulate and prepare their visual system for the years ahead. The following activities are recommended by developmental optometrists to stimulate their baby’s vision. And they’re fun too!

Month 1:
Bring your face close to his.  Let him follow your face with his eyes as you move from side to side.  Make buzzing and smacking noises.  Flutter your eyelids while you hold his fingers just within touching distance so he can watch and feel at the same time.

Months 2 through 4: Babies enjoy looking at people or pictures, especially of the people they know. Display large family photographs on a wall or table to show to your child.  Let him view the pictures frequently while you name the people in them.  Let him touch the   pictures carefully if he wants.

Months 2 through 4:
     Babies enjoy looking at people or pictures, especially of the people they know.
     Display large family photographs on a wall or table to show to your child.  Let 
     him view the pictures frequently while you name the people in them.  Let him touch 
     the pictures carefully if he wants.

Months 5 through 8:
Fill your baby’s visual environment with interesting colors and shapes.  Play games with a brightly-patterned ball.  One that makes a noise is best.  Arrange for him to have time outside in a safe place on the porch or in the yard, so he will learn nature’s special colors.

Months 9 through 12:
One at a time, wrap several toys of various sizes in tissue paper and let your baby unwrap them.  Sometimes use a single layer of paper and sometimes several layers. Let him feel the texture of the paper and see how it unfolds. Do not use tape or ribbon.  For eye-hand coordination, you can make a good puzzle using a muffin tin and several tennis balls. Let your baby place the balls in the muffin compartments.

--James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91360

Friday, December 14, 2012

Infant Vision Development


As a parent you may be unaware of the importance of early detection of vision problems in your child and what you can do to assist her visual development early in life.

More than 98% of infants are born with normal, healthy eyes. However, the normal structure and health of the eyes do not guarantee that your child will be able to use those eyes efficiently.

Although clear eyesight is important in your child’s visual development, it is not the end result of good vision. “Sight” is being able to see. “Vision” is the ability to understand what is seen, to detect where it is, and to react to it (reach for an object, duck when a ball comes near your head, read a book).

You can help your young child develop her vision skills even before she begins to read or attend school. An infant actually craves visual stimulation and the variety you offer her is important to her development. Elaborate toys are not necessary—the world itself is a very stimulating place. Remember, it’s all very new to your curious child.

From infancy, your child’s day is filled with lessons in spatial relationships and as she develops, looks at, feels, tastes, pushes, pulls, throws and drops everything possible as she learns three-dimensional characteristics and functions.

You can help your child by moving her from room to room, by different lighting conditions (not extremes) and by approaching her from different directions. If you speak as you move about, she will learn to follow the sounds of your voice with her ears and look for you.

A brightly colored mobile above her crib helps to develop depth perception. Different shaped blocks and rattles help your baby learn to reach and grasp. Pots and pans, measuring spoons and containers that fit within one another are all fun toys and great visual lessons for your child. Even playing peek-a-boo, as fun as it is for both of you, strengthens her visual develop. These early eye-guided movements of the hand are the “dress rehearsals” for learning to read later on.

Because your child has no way of recognizing good vision, she depends on your observations and awareness for detection and correction of problems.

A complete “Parents’ Guide and Checklist” is available - just contact me.

--James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91362

Monday, December 10, 2012

Infant Vision



The first half year of an infant’s life is a critical period for the development of vision. During this time, baby is learning to focus both eyes, judge distances and coordinate hand/eye movements.

Parents can do a lot to help an infant develop visual skills in a number of ways:
  • Keep a dim light on in baby’s room at night. This encourages the infant to learn to locate an object.
  • Place toys that are safe to be put in baby’s mouth in the crib. The process of looking at, grasping, then putting the toy in the mouth helps your infant develop hand/eye coordination.
  • Hang a brightly colored mobile about six feet from the crib. The slow movements and colors encourage baby to learn to focus and track his or her eyes. 
  • Talk to your baby as you move about the nursery. As baby lies in the crib, he or she will learn to connect vision and hearing with direction and distance. Move the crib to a variety of   locations within the room.
  • Change the sides on which you carry, change or feed your baby so that the vision of the right and left eye will develop equally. This also helps the muscles of the neck to develop evenly.
Many visual problems, especially “lazy eye” (amblyopia), are thought to be the result of a poor visual development process during these early months. Visual problems can frequently be prevented if detected early. Watch for these signs:
  • Frequent rubbing of the eyes
  • Squinting, drooping eyelids
  • Eyes that cross or turn in
  • Unusual postures or appearance of the eyes
--James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91360

Friday, December 7, 2012

Vision & Toys



"It is only a slight exaggeration to say that what we see today, how we perceive the visual world around us, depends on the visual experiences we had during the first stages of our lives."  So said the Nobel Committee in awarding the 1981 Prize in Medicine to three researchers in vision who had affirmed that discovery.  Among the best “visual stimulators” for youngsters are the toys they play with each day.

Here are some toys that help build eye-hand coordination, general movement skills (for everything from writing to sports), shape and size discrimination (needed for reading), space and distance judgments (needed for driving and sports) and visualization and visual memory skills that enable us to develop concepts.

Birth to 5 months:
       Toys: sturdy crib mobiles, gyms, large, bright rattles, bright rubber squeak toys
       Activities: Peek-a-boo, patty cake

6 to 8 months:
       Toys: stuffed animals, floating bath toys
       Activities: Hide and seek with toys

9 to 12 months:
       Toys: sturdy cardboard books, take-apart toys, snap-lock beads, blocks and stacking-nesting toys
       Activities: roll a ball back and forth

       Toys: bright balls, blocks, zippers, rocking horse and riding toys pushed by the feet
       Activities: throwing a ball

       Toys: pencils, markers, crayons, beanbag-ring toss games, peg hammering toys, sorting shapes-and-sizes toys, puzzles and blocks.   A great toy for children this age is a stacking, nesting coffee percolator with parts that nest together when properly assembled.

Careful selection of toys that can build visual skills should help provide a solid foundation upon which a child can develop more efficiently in school and life.

For youngsters who have missed out on some of the vision developmental steps during their early life, an individual optometric visual training program can help them “fill in gaps” to provide that solid visual foundation.

--James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
    Agape Learning & Optometry Center
    Thousand Oaks, CA

Monday, December 3, 2012

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)

More and more employers are offering their employees the option of directing their health care spending with Flexible Spending Account Plans (FSA), through “Cafeteria” Benefit Plans.  And savvy plan participants are directing that spending towards eye care.

Most participants know they can use their plan dollars for eye examinations, eyeglasses and contact lenses.  But there are many more ways to apply those dollars towards eye care.

For example, plan participants can use their accounts to pay for prescription medications for eye conditions such as dry eye syndrome and glaucoma, even laser vision surgery.

These plans may also be used to extend the benefits of a patient’s vision plan.  A patient who is covered by a separate vision plan, can use flex dollars for the co-payment on a covered eye health examination.  Or, if their vision plan provides one pair of eyeglasses, the patient can use plan dollars to pay for computer glasses, driving glasses or prescription sunglasses.

Some plans have a deadline by which the employee must use the dollars in their account or forfeit them.  Contact lens patients who face such a deadline may consider purchasing an annual supply of lenses with their remaining plan dollars.

--- James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91360

Friday, November 2, 2012

National Diabetes Month

November is National Diabetes Month.  I encourage anyone who has, or may be at risk for, diabetes to have an annual eye examination.

Diabetes affects 18.2 million Americans, 5.2 million of which may not know they have the disease.  One of the health problems associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy, a disease of the eye which can cause blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy can weaken and cause changes in the blood vessels that nourish the retina.  Symptoms may include blurred vision, cloudiness and/or “floaters”.

Diabetes also increases a person’s risk for developing other eye diseases. Persons living with diabetes are 40% more likely to develop glaucoma and 60% more likely to develop cataracts.

The early stages of diabetic retinopathy may produce no visual symptoms at all.  That is why it is so important for anyone who has diabetes or a family history of diabetes to have a yearly comprehensive eye health examination. Early detection and treatment are essential because once damage has occurred, the effects are usually permanent.

---James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91360

Monday, October 8, 2012

Dog TV!!!

 Only in America!  TV is going to the dogs!

As a developmental optometrist I am often concerned about the television habits of my younger patients.  Too much can be big trouble.  I came across this article from California Veteerinarian magazine (Sept 2012) that I found very funny and thought you would enjoy it.  We receive this magazine because my wife was a practicing vet for 7 years.

Do your clients worry about whether their dog is bored when they’re away from home? 

Do they say their dog suffers from separation anxiety? Then DOGTV may be for them!

Yes, dogs now have their own television channel – DOGTV, created especially for canines. The cable channel features three- to six-minute segments designed to stimulate, relax, and entertain a dog while the owner is away.

It’s available in San Diego, can be accessed online, and will go national soon.

We have a “Top Ten” set of questions about DOGTV:
1. Will dog obesity rise from all that TV-watching?
2. Should we worry about too much violence on DOGTV?
3. Might too much TV watching ruin a dog’s eyes?
4. How will we keep our dogs from fighting over the remote?
5. Won’t all this TV watching cut into their Internet time?
6. Can DOGTV add a smell-o-vision feature with selected food odors?
7. Will DOGTV create alternate, dog-oriented versions of popular shows, such as “Real Housepets of Beverly Hills,” “Man, the Bounty Hunter,” and “Are You Smarter than a Cat?”
8. What if you offer your dog a trip to the park and discover he’d rather be a couch potato and watch TV?

9. What if your dog doesn’t care less what’s on television?
10. Will your cat start whining for a CatTV channel?

--- James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91360

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Eye Safety Awareness

Jeepers Creepers, Watch Those Peepers!!

Home is a place we think of as a refuge. But when it comes to the eyes, home can be a very dangerous place.  Every year in the U.S., more than 125,000 people suffer injuries to the eyes in and around the home.  Most of these could be avoided by wearing proper eye protection.

Activities that are potential sight hazards include mowing and trimming, operating power tools, using hazardous chemicals or household cleaners and spreading fertilizer. 

October is Home Eye Safety Awareness Month.  Remember your eyes when working around the home.  For those who don’t require vision correction or wear contact lenses, we recommend ANSI-approved safety glasses available at hardware stores and home improvement centers.  For those people who wear eyeglasses, our office can prescribe safety glasses that meet ANSI standards.

--James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91360

Monday, September 17, 2012

Learning Related Vision Problems

Vision and Learning(Info provided by

Many parents indicate to us that their child's eyes are fine.  They have passed the pediatrician's vision screening or one at their school.  How could there possibly be a vision problem contributing to difficulties in learning and school?  The answer is complex but we often find subtle problems that are not detected in screenings.  Academic success requires 17 different visual skills and seeing 20/20 is just one of these skills.  Screenings do not check for all of these skills.

Symptoms of a learning related vision problem include:
---Struggles with schoolwork
---Short attention span with reading
---Poor reading comprehension
---Homework overwhelm

Contact us if your child has any of these symptoms.

James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
   Agape Learning & Optometry Center
   Thousand Oaks, CA   91360

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sports Vision Tinted Contact Lenses

Tinted Contact Lenses for Sports

Many professional and amateur athletes wear sport tint contact lenses to enhance their visual performance.  The use of sport tint lenses is growing - especially baseball (football & soccer) players, golfers, runners and tennis players.  CBS Evening News recently had a feature on tinted contacts for sports.

Baseball/Football/Soccer:  An amber lens blocks out blue light which is called "visual noise" by vision experts while the red colors, such as a baseball's seams, are accentuated.   They block high amounts of blue light to heighten contrast and visual acuity.   They are particularly useful to improve contrast on grass and against blue skies. Professional baseball players Chipper Jones (Atlanta Braves) and Mark McGuire (Cardinals - retired) are big proponents of these sport lenses.  Professional football players Marques Colston (Saints), Charles Tillman (Bears), Jason Hill (Broncos) and Brandon Jones (Ravens) and also very happy wearers.
Amber "Pupil Only" Sports Vision Tint

Available in Full Iris tint and Pupil Only tint.

Golf:  The gray-green lenses allow golfers to better differentiate distance on a golf course.  They heighten contrast (mildly) while preserving color balance and reduces brightness.  Professional golfer Justin Leonard has commented that with the gray-green lenses he is able to separate out every blade of grass.
Gray-Green Sports Vision Tint
Runners:  The Sun Tac lens reduces overall brightness while preserving 100 percent normal color recognition.  These are great on bright days in order to avoid dripping sweat on sunglasses.
Sun Tac Sports Vision Tint
Tennis:  The Bolle Blue lens blocks blue light to heighten contrast and visual acuity.  The tennis ball is much easier to see with this lens.
Bolle Blue "Pupil Only" Sports Vision Tint

--James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA

Monday, September 10, 2012

Brain Aneurysm

Life Saving Eye Exams

Olivia Rodriquez, a 22 year old Anaheim resident, complained about headaches, blackouts, nausea & dizziness for the last year.  She was told to reduce her stress levels by doctors.

Over time, she also developed double vision.  This was because her eye would turn in.  The result: impaired driving.  Her optic nerves were discovered to be swollen with a visit to her optometrist, Dr. Carlos Green.  She had a plum sized brain aneurysm.  Brain surgery corrected the problem and she is living a normal life again.

Our tests can reveal a multitude of systemic disease such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes, thyroid dysfunction and brain tumors.  This is a shock to many people but something we see weekly.

James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
   Agape Learning & Optometry Center
   Thousand Oaks, CA

Friday, September 7, 2012

REVERSALS - Letter & Number

(a white paper from the College of Optometrists in Vision Development -

Problems of letter and number reversals in children have concerned parents and educators for many years.  Some have considered reversals as a symptom of dyslexia.  More commonly reversals reflect a lag in spatial development.

Most research has shown there is no structural or medical basis for these reversals.  Although reversals are common and expected in five to six year old children, they may persist through childhood.  Some adults may even continue to manifest these problems.

For many years, scientists have studied children with reversal problems, particularly regarding orientation to right and left as related to their own bodies (laterality), and to objects around them (directionality).

At three, or even younger, the child should have grasped the concept of top and bottom, and right side up or upside down (even though still looking at books upside down).

The four year old is grappling with front and back, and may still put a shirt on backward.  Many four year olds show reversals as they put on shoes by themselves.  Some four to five year olds may start printing numbers and letters from right to left. At these ages, this is a normal stage of developing orientation in children.

Although most children master this concept of directionality by age seven, this confusion in orientation may continue, in some people, all their life. Reversals are a manifestation of a developmental lag in the process of orientation. They are indicative of an underlying problem in the integration of the vestibular and visual systems in the brain.

Rote repetition of learning to write letters and numbers correctly or rotely learning right and left hands may help us pass a test, but it does not solve the problem of the underlying causative factor of delayed orientation development.

The development of orientation starts in the prenatal period with the attitudinal reflexes which help the fetus orient in utero. This development continues through varied learned experiences in our lives. Interferences in movement activities involving vision and neuromotor relationships limit the development of orientation.

According to the neuroscientist J.D. French, orientation contributes in an important way to the highest mental processes--the focusing of attention, and the ability to think, to learn, and to act.

Specific vision therapy, including the unique application of lenses and prisms during visual-neuromotor activities (movement with awareness and feedback), provides learning experiences to improve the development of laterality, directionality and orientation, and the related problems of reversals.

When a child learns to orient easily, the evidence points to a well integrated and effectively operating person.

--James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA

Monday, September 3, 2012

Protective Sports Eyewear

“Suit Up” The Eyes For Sports Safety

Shin guards for soccer.  Shoulder pads for football. Batting helmets for baseball and softball.  Almost every sport has its own unique safety equipment.  Most participants in sports, however, forget to protect one of the most important parts of the body: the eyes.

Sports are the leading cause of eye injuries in children under 16.  Most of these could be avoided by wearing proper eye protection.

Protective sports eyewear can help prevent injuries such as fracture of the eye socket, scratched corneas, swollen retinas and even cataracts caused by trauma to the eye.

Parents of children who participate in sports should insist that their children wear protective eyewear and encourage schools and athletic clubs to adopt a policy requiring it.

September is Sports Eye Safety Awareness Month.  We encourage anyone who participates in sports – children and adults alike – to remember to outfit the eyes for safety.  Today’s protective eyewear is lightweight, comfortable and available with or without vision correction.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Are You Experiencing
Symptoms of Cataracts?

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in people 55 and older.  Everyone should be aware of the symptoms of cataracts, for the sake of their vision and for someone they know.

A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye and they tend to ‘grow’ gradually, so changes in vision may not be noticeable at first.

Symptoms of cataracts may include:

  • “Cloudy” vision
  • Sensitivity to bright sunlight
  • “Halos” appear around headlights at night
  • Colors appear faded

The most common cataracts are age-related.  By age 80, almost half the population either has a cataract or has had a cataract surgically removed.

Cataract surgery is the most common form of surgery in the United States, with more than 1.5 million procedures every year.  Surgery is not the first option for anyone with a cataract.

Some of the symptoms of cataracts in the early stages can be managed with sunglasses or eyeglasses with anti-reflective lenses.  When the cataract interferes with daily activities such as reading or driving, it’s time to consider surgery.

As with any eye disease, early detection and treatment are the keys to successful management of cataracts.  And the first step is a comprehensive eye examination annually, especially for persons over 60 years of age.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tech Use Taking Toll On Kids' Eyes

 Tech Use Taking Toll On Kids' Eyes

Doctor: School vision exams don't catch everything

AUSTIN ( - One-in-four school-aged children have vision problems that can affect learning. But often, children and parents don't have a clue there's anything wrong.
Between buying school supplies, school lunches and new clothes, parents have their hands full getting kids ready to head back to class.

But there's one more thing that can start them off on the right foot.

"It's really imperative that all children receive a comprehensive vision exam before they start school," said Dr. Mary McMains.

McMains says school vision screenings only detect about 5 percent of problems and often miss identifying children who have trouble seeing up close.

The National Eye Institute also reports longer stints in front of the computer screen are leading to more eye problems at an earlier age.

"What we're seeing is that we're having more nearsightedness, more complaints of double vision, blurry vision, tired eyes, headaches," McMains said.

When Kirby Youngblood first came to her office, the third grader was experiencing several headaches a day and his school work was suffering.

"You can see there's colored letters that are thicker, erase marks -- I didn't erase very well," Kirby Youngblood said.

After eight months of special vision therapy catered to kids that often looks more like an arcade than a doctor's office, his vision has improved.

"It's like watching your child transition into someone new -- someone you always knew that they were, but something was holding them back," said Sheila Youngblood.

Because most kids don't know there's a problem, there are warning signs to look for.

"Rubbing the eyes, watery red eyes can be a factor or if you notice a child is taking their book and holding it too close and pushing it far away, squinting, turning their heads so that their nose might be blocking one eye because they're having difficulty coordinating both eyes on the page," McCains said.

A good rule of thumb is to be proactive rather than reactive.
Doctors recommend a child's first eye exam be done before they turn age one, then again at age three and another right before schools starts.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Computer Vision Syndrome

Some 100 million American workers are affected by computer eyestrain, a symptom of Computer Vision Syndrome.  March is Eye Safety in the Workplace month, and as our nation has moved from a manufacturing society to an information society, Computer Vision Syndrome has become a workplace concern.  While prolonged computer use will not damage vision, it can make you uncomfortable and decrease productivity.

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is caused by the eyes constantly focusing and refocusing on the characters on a computer screen. These characters don’t have the contrast or well-defined edges like printed words and the eyes’ focus cannot remain fixed.  Symptoms of CVS include headaches, loss of focus, burning or tired eyes, blurred vision and neck or shoulder pain.

CVS can be partially alleviated by changes in the ergonomics of the work area.  Proper lighting and monitor placement can go a long way toward reducing CVS, as can giving your eyes frequent “breaks” from the computer.  But the underlying cause of CVS – the ability of the eyes to focus on the computer screen – may only be remedied by specialized computer glasses.

A comprehensive eye exam, including questions about a person’s computer use habits is the first step.  If we determine that vision correction for computer use is required, we can prescribe computer lenses that are designed to improve your vision in the 18” – 28” range, the optimal distance between your eyes and the computer monitor.