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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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. Vision is movement: We learn how to use our eyes through moving our bodies. Our eyes control our movement through space. You can’t make an eye movement without sending a message to your body, and you can’t make a body movement with- out sending a neurological message to your eyes.


We know 70 percent of the input to the brain comes from the visual sense. From a developmental standpoint, the eyes initially are just simply watching, tracking and following the hands. Later, as we continue climbing the developmental ladder, the eyes begin directing the hands, telling them where to go. Visual input helps us attain fine motor skills as our eyes guide our fingers to do such tasks as threading a needle or holding a pen and writing. The eyes working together as a team allows us to judge space and distance. Changing input results in changing output.


While the term “hand-eye coordination” is well known, it is more accurate to use the phrase eye-hand coordination. The eyes have

to lead first, but when we’re learning how to do this, we start out watching hand movements. The first year of life is more about taste and smell. The next two years are more about touch and feel. By the time we’re three years old, vision starts to become our dominant sense. By using our hands and eyes together, we discover we can “touch” and explore the world with our eyes. We don’t have to physically grab items to determine what they are.


If you don’t learn proper visual skills early in your life, your eyes and brain will often devise shortcuts. Your brain has to use the visual information from both eyes. If the two eye views cannot be matched up, the brain will be forced to make a choice. It will reject all or part of the information from one eye. It may ignore, suppress or turn off visual information it cannot use. You can retrain the brain and teach it how to see properly and optimally. From a behavioral and developmental vision standpoint, this means re-forming or re-creating neurological pathways. In some cases, you can even create new pathways. This empowers you to take charge of your own visual wellbeing. The behavioral or developmental optometrist has two goals for every patient: that their eyes will learn to work as a team so the patient will have good depth perception, and they will not have to depend on glasses in order to function in the world.


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