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 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). To correct these problems, the brain must learn how to use the eyes together – in essence, the patient must relearn how to see. Fortunately, the brain is quite resilient and adaptable, and with vision therapy, problems can be effectively treated and the patient can achieve normal eyesight and healthy vision.


The period from birth to age 6 development is critical for vision. Anything that interferes with clear vision in either eye during this period can result in amblyopia. If one eye sees clearly and the other eye sees a blur, the brain will suppress or ignore the eye with the blur. However, the child who has a problem with his or her vision does not know he or she is not seeing properly. The brain compensates for the problem and the child gets used to the way he or she sees, thinking it is “normal.” While parents and physicians can see some eye problems, usually only a complete eye exam can reveal how the child is really seeing.

Early treatment of amblyopia is generally simple, involving eyeglasses, eye drops, eye patching and vision therapy. Vision therapy (neurovisional perceptual therapy) can help stimulate the brain to relearn how to see. Visual therapy creates an environment where the brain receives more information and feedback about what the eyes and the visual system can do. This type of individualized, supervised treatment program is designed to correct visual-motor and/or per- ceptual-cognitive deficiencies. Vision therapy helps individuals develop normal coordination and teamwork between the eyes. Supervised therapy sessions include procedures designed to enhance the brain’s ability to control eye alignment, eye tracking and eye teaming, eye focusing abilities, eye movements and/or visual processing. The vision therapist will use specialized computer and optical devices, including therapeutic lenses, prisms and filters. Visual skills are reinforced and made automatic through repetition and integration with motor and cognitive skills. The therapy rehabilitates the brain, creating new pathways, and helps it readjust the compensation techniques it has learned. Scientific research shows children respond quickly to this treatment protocol; the average patient will show over a 3-year jump on their skill levels in just 30 weeks.

The American Optometric Association recommends preschool children receive a complete vision exam at the ages of six months, three years and five years. A comprehensive eye exam will test visual acuity at near, eye-teaming skills, eye-focusing skills, eye-movement skills and letter and word reversal frequency. This is important because vision problems can lead to learning difficulties. Children who have visual perception disabilities have trouble making sense out of what they see because of the way their brains pro- cess visual information.


Early detection and correction of visual dysfunctions can have a tremendous impact on a child’s ability to see, read and learn.

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.

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