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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CATARACTS ARE A PART OF AGING

If you are coming in to your 40s, you may be noticing that your eyesight is changing. You have to strain a little to read, holding the book or newspaper farther away, or you find you need to wear bifocals. You may even notice a bit of clouding of the lens of your eyes. What is going on?


Your eyes, like many other parts of the body, are showing signs of aging. The Crystalline lens in your eye is becoming less flexible. This makes it more difficult for the lens to adjust and focus when you look from far to near. Oxidation is another part of the equation. New fibers form in the eyes, and these cause the lens to lose flexibility. This typically happens around your 40th birthday, give or take a few months. You start noticing headaches and fatigue. Your computer comes in and out of focus. You may begin to be affected by cataracts.


As the fibers around it grow, the lens gets denser and less clear. This is due to a process called brunescence, which means browning. You may notice you need more light to see to read by. Or as you drive at night, car lights seem to have a little more glare around them. Cataracts do not appear all of a sudden. They undergo a natural progression. Doctors who specialize in cataract surgery recommend watching and waiting for them to grow. The rule of thumb is, as long as you can see well enough to do the things you need to do and be safe while doing them, you don’t need to do anything with the cataract. Cataract growth is a slow,

insidious process; most people don’t realize their vision has been debilitated by cataracts until it gets very bad. When it starts interfering with your day-to-day activities, you have a mature cataract that is ready to be removed.


Cataract surgery has come a long way over the past few decades. Previously, the surgery entailed cutting the eye open and using 16 to 20 stitches to put the implant in place. These days, the surgery involves no stitches because the incision is so microscopic. The cloudy lens is removed and replaced. Formerly, the lens was not replaced, causing the eye to lose 20 percent of its focusing power. With all the technological advances today, the eye surgeon can measure the different parts of the eye and calculate exactly what power lens implant you need in order to see after undergoing the extraction. The surgery is such a straightforward procedure that you will probably be able to return to work the day after. People who have had cataract surgery often say it wasn’t as big a deal as they thought. They exclaim over how much better they can see and wonder why they put it off so long.


There’s little you can do to prevent cataracts, but you can stave them off by following a healthy diet and exercising, improving your oxygen intake and use.


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