Back to school – yearly eye exam

Photo courtesy of Patrick on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Patrick on Flickr

Backpack, pencils, paper, binders, new clothes … an eye exam? When you think about getting ready to start a new school year, I’m sure that an eye exam is not on most people’s back to school list, though it should be. It is estimated that 80 percent of all learning is done with our eyes. In today’s modern classroom, students use their eyes constantly to read from a board, view projected digital images, use computers and tablets, read and to participate in sports and other classroom activities. So give your children the tools they need to succeed in school by having annual eye exams with a doctor of optometry.

According to the American Optometric Association, your child needs much more than just good vision in order to “see” properly. Every child needs to have the following vision skills for effective reading and learning:

  • Visual acuity: the ability to see clearly at the distance for viewing the chalkboard, at an intermediate distance for the computer and up close for reading a book.
  • Eye Focusing: the ability to quickly and accurately maintain clear vision as the distance from objects change, such as when looking from the chalkboard to a paper on the desk and back. Eye focusing allows the child to easily maintain clear vision over time like when reading a book or writing a report.
  • Eye tracking: the ability to keep the eyes on target when looking from one object to another, moving the eyes along a printed page or following a moving object like a thrown ball.
  • Eye teaming: the ability to coordinate and use both eyes together when moving the eyes along a printed page, and to be able to judge distances and see depth for class work and sports.
  • Eye-hand coordination: the ability to use visual information to monitor and direct the hands when drawing a picture or trying to hit a ball.
  • Visual perception: the ability to organize images on a printed page into letters, words and ideas and to understand and remember what is read.

Why school screenings don’t cut it

Unfortunately, while children do receive vision screenings from their pediatrician or at school, most do not have a comprehensive eye exam. In published guidelines for vision screenings, the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends a vision screening to include:

Visual acuity by Snellen method (reading letters at a distance)

  • External (penlight) examination for surface abnormalities of the eye and surrounding tissues
  • Pupillary examination
  • Ocular motility and alignment (ocular movements, cover test and corneal reflections)
  • Ophthalmoscopy for red reflexes and examination of retina and optic nerve

As you can see, vision screenings do not examine needed visual skills. Even if a child passes a vision screening and can see 20/20, he or she can still have vision problems. Luckily, every child in the United States has the ability to receive a comprehensive eye exam. To emphasize the importance of vision care, the Affordable Care Act has required every health plan to provide pediatric eye exams as an essential benefit. In addition, the volunteer doctors of optometry of the InfantSee program provide a comprehensive infant eye assessment between 6 and 12 months of age as a no-cost public service. Give your child the tools to succeed in school. Have an annual comprehensive eye exam.

For more information: California Optometric Association at, American Optometric Association at and


~ Steven Sage Hider, OD
California Optometric Association

Vision therapy, you may need it if……

Vision therapy is a process in which we retrain the eyes and brain to work better together to more easily and efficiently capture visual information, processes it and have a good motor output. When over two thirds of the sensory information coming into the brain is processed through the visual system, it is imperative that all of the functions work as easily, as comfortably, and automatically as possible. Then, we can use more brain power for higher level interpretation of what we are seeing and learning.

Photo courtesy of digital kid2007 via Flickr

Photo courtesy of via Flickr

When eye tracking, eye teaming, eye focusing, visual information processing and visual motor integration are not working properly, these are some of the common problems that are noticed in the school setting and these are some of the signs that your child may need vision therapy:

  • Does your child seem to struggle with school work more than his peers?
  • Does a simple homework sheet seem to take hour and hours causing a “homework war” in the evening?
  • Does your child avoid reading? Or get headaches, double or blurry vision when doing near work?
  • Is your child not performing as well on reading and writing tasks as she does if she is read to?
  • Most importantly, is your child not performing to their potential in school or sports?
  • Having attention or behavioral problems in the classroom?

What about for us adults? Vision therapy is not just for kids.  With the use of computers and tablets and smartphones, adults can experience a multitude of visual problems that affect fatigue levels and performance at work that Vision Therapy can help eliminate.

  • Do you experience headaches after working on the computer?
  • Do you ever see double vision?
  • Does your vision get blurry on and off?
  • Do you ever have blurry vision driving home at night after working on the computer all day?
  • Do you find that you skip words or numbers while reading documents, spreadsheets, etc?

With any of these symptoms, a complete eye health and developmental vision evaluation can diagnose the specific problem, determine if vision is the cause and if vision therapy can help. At your next eye examination, let your COA optometrist know if you or your child are experiencing any of the above symptoms and ask if vision therapy will help. For more information on vision therapy and the signs and symptoms of vision related problems, visit


Lisa M. Weiss, OD, FCOVD
California Optometric Association

Emergency eyecare: What is the 411 on the 911 of our eyes?

As the urgent care optometrist for our practice for over 20 years, I have come across and treated many eye related injuries. Many of these urgent care visits are the result of accidents involving common household items and every day activities. My fellow bloggers, Dr. Lisa Weiss, Dr. David Ardaya and I have written about how to protect your eyes and your children’s eyes during work or play in the June 4, June 11, and July 7 issues of the COA Blogs.

Photo courtesy of Pekka Nikrus on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Pekka Nikrus on Flickr

Here, I highlight notable cases that I evaluated and treated, in hopes that you can safeguard yourself from these types of injuries. Through the eyes of an ER eye doctor you might have seen:

  • A mother and daughter working on a school project that required gluing things together. Out comes the tube of crazy glue. As the mother squeezes the initial droplet of the crazy glue, it inadvertently squirts backwards into her own eye and eyelashes subsequently sealing her eye shut.
  • A woman busy readying herself for work. She was curling her hair with a hot curling iron as she did every morning. On that particular day as she was curling her hair, her hand slipped and the curling iron burned her eye and upper eyelid.
  • A brother sitting across the table from his sister at dinner. The brother was shaking hot sauce out of a bottle to spice up his tacos. As he tapped the bottle vigorously, the hot sauce jetted all the way across the table into his sister’s eye causing an immediate chemical burn.
  • A dad carrying his child in his arms. As the child was having a meltdown and flinging his hands around, the child’s sharp fingernail scraps the front of the dad’s eye.
  •  A woman breaks a glass coffee carafe on the kitchen counter. A piece of the glass unknowingly falls into the garbage disposal. When the garbage disposal was turned on the broken piece of glass flies into the woman’s eye and remains permanently lodged in there.
  • A long time contact lens wearer rushing in the morning. She went to refresh her contact lenses with what she thought was saline solution. Instead, she reached for a bottle of contact lens cleaner. Upon applying her contact lens, she caused a chemical toxicity to her eye.
  • A housekeeper bending down to pick up something off the floor, hits her eye on the corner of the table. She gets a black eye and sees flashes of light.

Now that you know that every day activities inside your home might cause you harm, it’s time to learn about what measures you need to take to safeguard yourself. Wear protective eyewear when working with chemicals or sharp objects. Slow down. Don’t rush through a task. If an irritating substance gets into your eyes, immediately flush your eyes out for at least 20 minutes before you call your eye doctor for further assistance. If a sharp object abrades or penetrates your eye, it’s best to cover your eye with some sort of shield or protective shell and go see your eye doctor ASAP. These are the things you, as a patient, need to do to help us get a jumpstart on treating the injury and stabilizing the condition … until you are able to get to the eye doctor’s office.


~ Judy Tong, O.D., F.A.A.O.
California Optometric Association

Sports vision: beware of potential eye dangers

Now that we are in the middle of summer, many of my patients are heading outdoors for a good time. Of course, we counsel them about ultraviolet (UV) protection and the importance of wearing sunglasses, but we’ve also been working hard to prevent sports related eye injuries, especially since July is Eye Injury Prevention Month.

Photo courtesy of Roel Ubels on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Roel Ubels on Flickr

You’ll poke your eye out!

Would you believe that eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children? Unfortunately, this is true – every year over 100,000 sports related eye injuries occur in the United States with a cost of over $175 million in medical spending. As a father of two, statistics like these make me want to cover my children in bubble wrap and tell them to play more chess. While I cannot realistically do that, I thought it might be useful to provide a couple of tips to protect our kids and ourselves.

  1. Have an idea which sports contribute to the most injuries
  2. Common sports such as baseball and basketball produce the most injuries in young people, though this is skewed by the sheer number of kids playing these sports. Having been plunked in the head with a baseball, I can say firsthand that a helmet with a faceguard would have been immensely helpful. In basketball, injuries occur more commonly with fingers and elbows, rather than the ball. Ask professional basketball player Amare Stoudemire about that: he suffered two nearly career-ending eye injuries that could’ve easily been prevented had he been wearing sports goggles. In adults and older teens racquet sports, shooting, ice hockey, and boxing/MMA become more common and thus account for an increased amount of damage. Again, wearing sports-specific glasses will save your vision when that racquetball is careening towards your head at 100 mph.

  1. Not all eyewear is created equal
  2. When getting eyewear for sports, realize that most sports have specific goggles or glasses that are intended for that sport. All protective lenses need to be made from polycarbonate material, which is exceptionally crack resistant; sports frames are held to a higher safety standard as well. Additionally, a great fit is mandatory so the glasses stay safely on the wearer’s face. Finally, do not accept mediocre vision. Prescription lenses are a must, as you or your child will be able to perform better on the field.

So, next time you head out to play sports, remember to protect your precious sense of sight and don’t become a statistic.

~ David Ardaya, O.D.
California Optometric Association