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Archive for July, 2011

Why Your Eye Doctor Dilates Your Eyes at an Eye Exam

During an eye examination, your eye doctor looks through your pupils to physically inspect the anterior chamber of the eyes. By using dilating drops, he can temporarily paralyze the muscles that control the iris and roughly double the size of the average pupil. The following offers insight as to why your eye doctor does this and what to expect.

Improved Exam and Diagnosis
The larger pupil size increases the view of the retinal area by up to seven times and allows for a three-dimensional inspection. This results in improved recognition of eye conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and retinal disorders, as well as systemic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Improved Eye Prescription Accuracy
Dilating drops temporarily restrict your eyes’ natural ability to change focus (called accommodation). By pausing your eyes’ focus and not having to chase a moving target, your eye doctor can more clearly define the best possible prescription for your eyes.

Expect a Temporary Loss of Focus
The loss of accommodation that helps your eye doctor during the exam becomes a temporary problem for the patient afterward. This inability to focus makes it impossible to do any reading for several hours and is why your eye doctor asks you to bring someone with you to your eye appointment in order to drive you home.

Expect Sensitivity to Light
By locking the pupils in an open position, your eye doctor temporarily disables your eyes’ ability to protect themselves from bright light. Therefore, for a few hours after the exam, sunglasses might be required.

Dilating your eyes at an eye exam is an inconvenience that lasts only a few hours. The advantages a dilated exam gives your eye doctor in detecting, diagnosing and treating eye problems early can last a lifetime.

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Sports Vision Training May Give You A Competitive Edge

To excel in sports, it takes hard work and dedication. Athletes spend countless hours training in order to reach their peak performance levels and gain an edge over the competition. When we think of sports training, we usually associate it with physical and mental training. Exercising muscles to become stronger and the brain to recognize situations and develop solutions. However, vision should not be overlooked in the training regimen. The basic concept of sport vision training is that visual agility and the ability to understand and react to whatever you are seeing, can be developed and improved through vision training and exercise.

Beyond 20/20 Vision
There is a good deal more to having superior sport vision than simply having 20/20 acuity. Take two boys of the same size and physical skill. One is an excellent athlete and the other is not. Why? One possible answer is the difference in the two boys’ vision. Optimum vision for many sports involves anticipating what is about to happen, seeing what happens, physically reacting to what you see and then anticipating what will happen next. Proponents of sport vision training maintain that these are skills that can be measured and improved.

Elements of Sport Vision
Many sport vision professionals point to seven general elements of sport vision:

(1). Visual Acuity: The basic ability to see clearly.

(2). Depth Perception: Seeing in three dimensions to judge an object’s speed and distance.

(3). Eye/Body Coordination: The ability to take visual input from the eyes to the brain and then to the hands and feet.

(4). Contrast Sensitivity: The ability to see detail in various lighting and climatic conditions.

(5). Peripheral Vision: The awareness of what is happening outside of your main frame of focus.

(6). Eye Tracking: the ability to follow and anticipate the path of a ball or other object.

(7). Eye Movement Skills: The ability of the two eyes to work together as a team at high speeds and in stressful conditions.

Vision Training Programs Are Customized for Each Sport
Vision training can be individualized based on the needs of the sport itself. Training could be different for a football player versus a baseball player or a hockey player. It could even be different between a football quarterback and a receiver. Most of the training techniques, however, tend to break down into one of the following two groups.

Computer Challenges: Using a computer monitor and a joystick, athletes do specialized video activities aimed at sharpening the synapses that connect the eyes, brain and hand. The computer software measures and then advances performance.

Physical Drills: Like full-body versions of their computer counterparts, these drills seek to shorten the time between eyes seeing and body moving. For example, picture nine 1-ft squares marked on the floor in checkerboard fashion. Following prompts from a video console, the athlete moves his or her feet from square to square in a progressively quicker sequence.

Does Vision Training Really Work?
While all the variables that go into athletic performance make it difficult to quantify how much vision training can translate into batting averages, completion rates and shooting percentages, a study of student athletes at the U.S. Air Force Academy indicated that eye movement speed could be improved as much as 24 percent and hand-eye speed and accuracy could be increased up to 150 percent.

Benefits of Vision Training Extend Beyond Sports
Georgia Tech polled athletes that participated in the school’s sport vision training program. While 77% percent of the athletes felt the training helped their athletic performance, an even more impressive 83% said it helped their academic performance. Like many aspects of sports, the training and participation have benefits in all areas of life.

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How and Why LASIK Surgery Works to Correct Vision

What is LASIK?
LASIK (Laser Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis) is a surgical procedure for correcting refractive errors of the eye, such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism. Because the procedure is relatively painless and vision improvement is achieved by the next day, LASIK has become the procedure of choice for people looking to improve their vision. In fact, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, LASIK’s 95% patient satisfaction level is the highest rating for any surgical procedure.

How Clear and Focused Vision Works
Think of the eye as a small screening room. The cornea, which is the lens on the front surface of the eye, and the internal crystalline lens form the eye’s focusing mechanism. The retina, found on the back wall of the eye, is the screen. For those with 20/20 vision, light rays (and the images they carry) pass through the cornea, are redirected to the crystalline lens and are then brought to a clear point focus directly on the retina.

Why Vision Becomes Unclear and Unfocused
Approximately 60 percent of us have some imperfection in the shape of the various components of the eye, causing a poorly focused image on the retina. The most common of these refractive errors are: Myopia, or nearsightedness, where light rays reach a point focus before they reach the retina; hyperopia, or farsightedness, where light rays have not yet reached a focus when they hit the retina; and astigmatism, where due to irregular corneal curvature, light rays do not come to a single point focus.

Correcting Vision Problems with LASIK
Similar to traditional eyeglass lenses, LASIK surgery corrects these conditions by redirecting the rays of light so that they focus precisely on the retina. The difference is eyeglasses redirect light before it reaches the cornea, LASIK changes the cornea itself. By use of computer-controlled lasers, the cornea is precisely sculpted into a new shape. Myopes’ corneas are flattened to elongate their focus, hyperopes’ corneas are made steeper to shorten their focus and astigmats’ corneas are smoothed to create a single focus.

What Happens Before LASIK Surgery
Typically, an instrument called a pachymeter is used to gauge the exact thickness of the cornea and a corneal topographer is used to photograph and create a detailed map of the lens surface. Some surgeons do a wavefront analysis of the eye. This procedure sends light waves into the cornea creating an even more precise map. Data from these tests go into the computer which assists the surgeon in controlling where and how much the cornea needs to be shaped in order to get the required light refraction.

What Happens During LASIK Surgery
There are 3 basic steps to the actual LASIK procedure. First, using either a microkeratome (a bladed device) or a laser keratome, the surgeon cuts a thin circular flap on the surface of the cornea which is then pushed back, exposing the inner (stroma) layer of the lens. Then, with the patient fully awake and focusing on a target light, the surgeon uses pulses from the excimer laser to vaporize stroma cells until the desired change in shape is achieved. Finally, the flap is carefully flipped back in place where it will act as a natural bandage while the wound heals.

Why LASIK is Different from Other Vision Correction Procedures
The advantage that LASIK offers over previous refractive correction procedures is the flap. Because the corneal reshaping is done down in the stroma layer, LASIK delivers quicker visual recovery and less pain. It should be noted, however, that not all LASIK patients can be brought to 20/20 vision. According to the Eyecare Education Council, approximately 90 percent of LASIK patients reach 20/40 acuity or better, which is the acuity required by most states to drive a car without corrective lenses.

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Eyeglasses or Contact Lenses, What’s Your Best Choice?

The Vision Council of America estimates there are 174 million corrective lens wearers in the United States. Whether these people choose eyeglasses or contact lenses, the basic process is the same. These lenses bend rays of light so that they come to a clear focus on the retina. There are also several notable differences in how these lenses function, answering these questions and understanding differences can help you choose which one is best for you and your lifestyle.

Do You Want Consistent Correction or Can You Live With Moments of Blur? 
Eyeglass lenses, being a solid chunk of plastic, bend light rays in the exact same way every minute of every day. Therefore, your vision correction is consistent and dependable. Contact lenses, by contrast, are paper thin and as bendable as a piece of cellophane. The natural flexing of contacts and their interaction with the eyes’ tear film can cause small variations in vision throughout the day. If you are adverse to the occasional “blurry moment” then contacts may not be your best bet.

Do You Want Clarity at All Angles?
Both eyeglasses and contacts deliver a crisp, clear image when you look straight ahead. However, with eyeglasses, as your eye moves out towards the periphery of the lens, you encounter more and more “prismatic” distortion. The stronger the prescription is, the more distortion occurs. Theoretically, the same is true with contact lenses, but due to the thinness of the material and the fact that contacts move with your eye, the distortion is greatly reduced. That is one reason why people with high prescriptions tend to prefer contacts.

Do You Depend on Your Peripheral Vision?
Sitting away from your face, eyeglasses have a built-in problem with peripheral vision. To see well to the right side, you must turn your head to the right. If you just glance sideways you’ll encounter blur as you go outside of the glasses’ field of vision. Contacts, moving with your eyes, deliver far greater peripheral vision. This is a key point for sports enthusiasts.

How Much Discomfort Can You Tolerate?
Contact lenses work in tandem with your eyes’ tear layer, so any change in your tears can impact lens comfort. Allergies, air conditioning, wind, and many other factors can make your eyes a little more or less watery, and that can greatly affect contact lens comfort and performance. Eyeglasses free you of these concerns, but as any eyeglass wearer can tell you, walking into a warm room on a cold day or watching a football game in the rain can carry a whole different set of comfort issues.

Are Fashion and Appearance Primary Considerations? 
While most people focus on finding an eyeglass frame thats fashionable, the larger cosmetic issue may be their lenses. A person who is nearsighted will have lenses that are thick at the edge and thin in the middle. This makes their eyes appear smaller than they really are. Conversely, those who are farsighted have lenses that are thicker in the middle and their eyes will appear larger than they really are. These considerations disappear for contact lens wearers.

How Much of a Health Risk and How Much Time Are You Willing to Invest?
Because contact lenses sit right on your eye, they pose a potential health risk. A lens that fits too tight or too loose can damage the cornea and poor hygiene and lens handling can lead to dangerous infection. That is why most eye doctors insist on regular yearly eye exams for their contact lens patients. Contact lens wearers should plan on investing more time on their eye care than their eyeglass wearing counterparts: more time at the doctor’s office and more time cleaning and caring for their lenses.

What’s Your Budget?
While a pair of designer eyeglasses can be fairly expensive, over time contact lens wear will generally prove to be more costly. Frequency of eye exams, frequency of lens replacement and the added expense of cleaning solutions drive up the total cost of contacts. You must also keep in mind that most eye doctors will strongly recommend that contact wearers also have a pair of eyeglasses to fall back on when needed.

To learn more about eyeglasses, eyeglass lenses, proper eye care, eye wear and Shawnee Optical, please visit our website at

Baby Vision from the Womb to Age One

Eighty percent (80%) of our learning comes visually. That’s not the case, however, when a newborn child comes home from the hospital. Just as infants have to learn to use their arms and legs, they have to learn to use their eyes. The process takes months, and sometimes a little knowledge about the process can greatly help calm a parent’s concerns.

Eye Development While in the Mother’s Womb
The roots of healthy vision begin well before birth. Unlike most of the organs, a newborn’s eyes are almost 65% of their future adult size on the day he or she is born. A strong correlation exists between low birth weights and increased vision problems in infants. This is one of the many reasons to closely follow your doctor’s recommendations on nutrition, rest, medications and smoking.
What Does a Newborn Baby See First
A baby’s first visual images will be very blurry and largely in shades of gray. The nerve cells of the retina and brain are still developing. Newborns also lack the ability to change focus from near to far objects. Their focus is locked in at about 8 to 12 inches, which just so happens to be the distance from Mom’s shoulder to her face. How blurry is their vision? They can’t make out Mom’s features, but they recognize the outline and proportions of her head.
Shawnee Optical Tip: Since a newborn recognizes the silhouette of faces, if you want a newborn to recognize you, don’t do anything to change that silhouette. Keep everything consistent including your hair style.  Simply putting on a big floppy hat will cause you to be treated like a stranger.
A Baby’s Eyes at One Month Old
Acuity is improving and baby is starting to experience color vision. Reds, oranges, yellows and greens will come first. Recognition of colors with shorter wavelengths, like blue and violet, will take longer to develop. A baby’s eyes may occasionally cross, or turn slightly. This is not unusual, and as long as it is not consistent, you shouldn’t worry.
Shawnee Optical Tip:  At one (1) month old, a baby’s eyes are very tolerant of light. They are about 50 times less sensitive to light than adults. That means a night light in their room won’t disturb them and if they find themselves awake in their crib at night, at least they can look around a bit.
A Baby’s Eyes at Two and Three Months Old
Acuity continues to sharpen and a baby’s eyes are beginning to work together as a team. This brings a big improvement in depth perception, which improves the ability to reach out and touch things. During this time, a baby’s eyes are becoming more sensitive to light, so it’s time to ease back on the lights at naptime and bedtime.
Shawnee Optical Tip: To help with a baby’s visual development, shake up their world a little bit. Move their crib, add new items to their environment, and if they usually are on their back, put them on their belly to play. The variety enriches their visual experience.
A Baby’s Eyes at Four to Six Months Old
By six months, many infants are nearing what we consider normal adult acuity and color vision. Her improving eye-hand coordination shows, as you marvel at how quickly she can get a toy from her hand to her mouth . Now it’s time for baby’s first eye examination. The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends an eye exam at 6 months. The eye doctor can do nonverbal checks for near-sightedness, far-sightedness, astigmatism and eye alignment.
Shawnee Optical Tip: If you’d like to have your baby’s eyes examined, but can’t afford it, check into the American Optical Association’s InfantSee program.
A Baby’s Eyes at Seven to Twelve Months Old
A baby’s eyes are now almost fully developed and they are learning how to put their new vision to use. They are crawling and exploring. At this age, a baby’s eyes will often start to darken. Newborns’ eyes are typically blue. Pigments build up in the baby’s iris and many blue eyes transform into to brown, green and gray eyes.
Shawnee Optical Tip: To stimulate eye-hand coordination, encourage a baby to crawl to get their toys. The interaction between eyes, arms and legs is very healthy and very important. Surprisingly, encouraging children to walk early may actually hurt the development of their eye-hand skills.
Signs of Vision Problems in Babies
The American Optical Association gives the following list of warning signs that parents should be aware of. Any of these symptoms should be discussed as soon as possible with your pediatrician or eye doctor.
  • Excessive tearing may signal blocked tear ducts.
  • Red or crusty eye lids are a possible sign of infection.
  • Constant eye turning or crossing can indicate poor muscle control.
  • Extreme sensitivity to light could signal high pressures in the eye.
  • White pupils may be a sign of a serious condition, such as cancer.

To learn more about eyeglasses, eyeglass lenses, proper eye care, eye wear and Shawnee Optical, please visit our website at

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