In my role as an internist/geriatrician, I am often approached by patients who want to take herbal products. There are also those who seek alternative treatment modalities. Deciding how one advises these patients is often difficult. Our training as physicians have not provided us with sufficient background to evaluate and draw conclusions on the efficacy of these approaches in dealing with patients' problems. However, when the medical literature reviews these products or new treatment modalities, I try to become as knowledgeable as possible. This allows me to give intelligent advice to my patients.
In my role as a parent, I have been thrown on the other side of the consultant's desk. My six year old was diagnosed with anisometropic amblyopia two months after his 5th birthday. His condition was identified by my ophthalmologist, who then referred me to the pediatric sub-specialist. The pediatric ophthalmologist informed me that my son's visual acuity of 20/200 in his left eye may or may not improve. In fact, I was told the prognosis was poor and we should start therapy with eye glasses. We subsequently proceeded to patching his "good" eye. His vision gained little ground and no mention of Vision Therapy was made.
I pursued Vision Therapy after an educator made me aware of it. I went to an optometrist skilled in vision therapy and was given a list of at-home exercises to work on with my son. His vision started to improve. When a better level of visual acuity was reached, we started in-office therapy. This not only helped strengthen the weak eye, but improved the other aspects of the amblyopia syndrome. It trained him to use binocular vision [both eyes at the same time] by using the weaker eye when the stronger eye is not patched. He is now at 20/40 with glasses.
Amblyopia is the most common cause of monocular [one-eyed] blindness in children. Shouldn't our ophthalmic and pediatric societies be advocating for early screening? Once the diagnosis is made, should we not offer our patients everything possible to treat this condition? If our ophthalmologists are not familiar with Vision Therapy, isn't it time to educate them? If it was your child at risk, wouldn't you want all doors to be opened to help avoid the negative consequences?
By Iris Stern, MD
When my optometrist and I finally figured out that I had lost binocular vision [two-eyed], it was a huge relief. I came to Dr. X hoping that we could fix the problem. Vision Therapy was slow going at first, but I stuck with it and slowly we started seeing improvements. Then one day it seemed like someone threw the light switch and my eyes started working together again. They continue to improve and it has been an uplifting and exciting experience.
I am living proof that a person can regain better vision even when they are older. I would strongly recommend to anyone with a child with vision problems to take care of it ASAP as it will ensure a better education and life in general.
by M. Kimberly Carpenter
Ryan's concentration has increased greatly. He doesn't struggle with memorizing any more. He reads faster without having to close one eye, and he no longer gets frustrated when doing thinking tasks.
By Billie S. Jennings
My daughter Ashley was having great difficulty in the first grade. When she began vision therapy with Dr. X, her grades were low and her handwriting was below the standard of her age group. The teacher was so concerned that she recommended that I have Ashley's mental capacity tested. I knew that was not the source of the problem because when I went over her school work at home, she had no problem comprehending the information. The trouble stemmed from her writing the information on paper.
Around the same time, her gym teacher expressed concern about Ashley's great difficulty catching a ball and her eye to hand coordination. I started taking Ashley here once a week for Vision Therapy. She was diagnosed as having difficulty focusing her vision (lazy eye).
After about a year of therapy, Ashley's grades have improved to the point where she is currently on the Honor Roll. She received all A's and B's on her school work. Her handwriting has improved tremendously. Her second grade teacher is happy with her performance. Ashley has also regained her confidence regarding her physical abilities. She wants to play more sports in her spare time.
Ashley looks forward to her weekly visits because the staff makes the exercises seem like games rather than therapy. They have a very upbeat and positive attitude, which inspires and motivates my daughter.
Ashley has been helped tremendously at a very critical time in her physical and mental development.
D.H., Ashley's parent,
My child, who was seven at the time, had just begun to have headaches. The event that called to our attenion that our daughter needed help with her eyes, was that our daughter, following an eye check at school, came home and told me that she could not see anything on the eye chart out of her left eye. The health nurse sent home a card telling the results of the test. At this point we had her examined by our optometrist, who immediately referred us to a developmental optometrist (vision therapy specialist). Since Vision Therapy my child can now SEE with BOTH eyes. When she started, one eye was 70% shut down giving only 30% vision in that eye. She has near normal vision now. She wears both contacts and glasses and is doing just great.
Mother of Lisa (8 year old with Amblyopia)
About Matthew K., age 8 - written during exit interview by Matthew's parent:
Problems prior to Vision Therapy:
Visual perceptual motor deficits
History of patching and glasses for amblyopia (lazy eye)
Struggles in school with math, writing
Possible ADD (attention deficit disorder)
Benefits of Vision Therapy:
Eliminated amblyopia (lazy eye)
Increased fusion, accommodative, oculomotor, and visual motor integration skills
Improved 3 grade levels on Visagraph grade level efficiency
After the first three visits for Vision Therapy, she noticed that she could read better. After about 2 months, she noticed that when she covered her good eye, she could see better with her other eye. There was no more blurred or double vision.
Perky Giulie, Laura's parent
From kindergarten through college, I have always needed to cover one eye for close focusing. I also suffered from severe daily headaches, dizziness, and nausea.
After Vision Therapy, I can now do everything with two eyes and rarely get headaches. My eyes work very well as a team, and I have tools to maintain my hard-earned gains for the rest of my life.
Since I no longer have severe headaches, my comfort level has improved drastically. My concentration at work has also improved and working long hours is now manageable. I've had a renewed desire to read for pleasure because it no longer causes me headaches. I feel like a new person. Each little step in the process became fun as I saw drastic improvements in my lifestyle.
Sarah Johnson, Civil Engineer, adult patient
Justin was diagnosed at four-and-a-half years old with a lazy left eye and was put in corrective lenses. His eyes were checked every six months until he was six years old. At his 7th birthday exam, we expected the usual prescription but were stunned to learn that his eyes were not tracking together and that his right eye had pretty much shut down [suppression]. The doctor recommended Dr. X, as he was a specialist in problem eyes, especially children.
Dr. X gave my son the most thorough and wrenching eye exam I had ever seen Justin or anyone else go through. The diagnosis was that his right eye was indeed not functioning at all. He was forced to use his left eye for everything. Dr. X asked if he played sports, like baseball; I said no. Dr. X replied, "He can't. He can't see the ball coming at him so he will shy away from anything where eye-hand coordination is required." It made me sad as I realized how Justin had been denied the ability to play normal childhood games. The most perplexing question was, "How was he doing so well in school?" His right eye, now dominant, performed all functions! Justin is such a driven and motivated student he must have figured out ways to make sense of all his schoolwork even with a broken processor.
After 12 weeks of intensive visual therapy and "eye homework," Justin's near vision is much improved because his right eye is now working and both eyes are working together. The confidence he has now is difficult to explain but is much greater than before visual training. His grades haven't improved because they couldn't [they were already great], but the ease and comfort level of doing homework and performing difficult academic tasks is now present at a much higher level than ever before.
Dr. X took Justin from his normal way of seeing and processing information to where both eyes work and therefore both sides of his brain can function as they should. Dr. X opened up Justin's world so he could see and do what normal sighted children can.
We are very grateful to Dr. X and his staff for making such a wonderful difference in our child's life.
Steve and Chris Brandon, Justin's parents
When my son Kasey came to you, I had no idea he was having so much trouble with his vision. He was ill throughout the third grade, he hated school, reading was a huge challenge for him and his writing was mostly unreadable. He couldn't write on the line. He had trouble with hitting the curb with his bike and hitting a baseball. He also suffered from occasional headaches. His school was considering holding him back a year.
We started Vision Therapy that summer, I quickly learned what a controversial subject Vision Therapy was, but we decided Kasey needed to give it a try. After three months of Vision Therapy, his peripheral vision opened up. He was doing better on his bike. By the end of the fourth grade, he was up to third grade reading. His writing was also improving. What impressed me the most was how much the therapists cared.
Kasey is starting the sixth grade this fall and he has not had a migraine at all since we have been in therapy. He used to tilt his head when things got hard, now he remembers to use both eyes to see. He is gaining B's & C's in school and is participating in class. His reading is still improving and I know he will catch up.
I owe Dr. X and his staff a world of thanks for caring about my little boy. Vision Therapy is absolutely wonderful.
Debbie B., Kasey's parent
Chase had a hard time at school. He seemed smart but was bad at reading and school work. He had headaches. [Diagnosis: Amblyopia, Strabismus, and Exotropia.]
Since Vision Therapy, his teachers have said "He's a different boy! You'd not know him from when he was in 1st grade. It really helped him for the better." Now he doesn't trip over things, fall out of his desk, or lose things. Instead, he listens, follows directions, knows answers, is organized in and on his desk. He completes homework on time and has an easier time of it.
Mrs. Frank McCoy, Chase's parent, 3/8/96
Before I started going to Vision Therapy, I never used to look people in the eyes when they are talking to me and vice versa. Now I feel more comfortable and have noticed I started looking people in the eyes without worrying about my lazy eye.
I also notice my eye never gets lazy during the day-time. Before, sometimes it would just get lazy out of nowhere in the middle of the day. Now if it gets lazy, it gets lazy in the early morning and I can fix it.
I would highly recommend Vision Therapy for others.
Tom Kowakzyk, patient, 3/02/03
Julieanne is able to see clearly at a distance. She can now see well from the back of the classroom. Her eyes seem to be more equal in strength now. She has fewer reversals in her numbers and letters.
Wendy Fontano, Julieanne's Mother
Vision Therapy has strengthened my left eye so that it is better able to do the work it must do.
My eyes now work together and they focus together more quickly. My right eye was also strengthened. Vision Therapy has greatly improved my vision.
Craig has not shown any indication of "lazy" eye since he has been working with Vision Therapy. Even though he has glasses, he has not needed to use them because his eyes are working as a team, giving him much stronger vision. Craig has always looked forward to his therapy. It's encouraging to know that he finds it enjoyable.
William, Craig's Father
At Rachel's last reevaluation, she was seeing much better with her left eye (right eye covered) than when she began. Also, both of her eyes were working together much better. These changes have contributed to Rachel's improved disposition.
Rachel Steinbach's Parents
In softball, I make contact with the ball just about every time at bat! It is also easier to see smaller writing with my right eye. I think Vision Therapy is a great way to improve eyesight and teach eyes to work together. This program should continue. I would like to say thanks to everyone who has worked with me during my therapy.
When I was in 3rd or 4th grade, my mother took me for an eye exam. The doctor said that I had a lazy eye and prescribed some reading glasses and a plastic device [occluder] to cover the lens on the right eye [to force the child to use his left eye]. I was instructed to use the glasses while reading, and in school. Children being what they are, it only took a couple of comments, and I elected not to wear the glasses or patch in school.
I had difficulty playing baseball and basketball as a child. I used to get fairly severe headaches in college, and sometimes used the glasses and patch in my late teens to see what happened. I recall being amazed at how much visual clarity I had in my left eye after removing the patch and a distinct awareness of vision from it, but I stopped doing it.
After graduating college, I joined the Navy and was selected for pilot training. I scored 100% on the flight aptitude test at the recruiting station. I reported to Pensacola Florida for Aviation Officer Candidate School, and after the first week went to the Naval Medical Institute (NAMI) for my first flight physical. I had no problem reading the bottom line on the acuity machine, but could not pass the depth perception test. This was both the "circles" exam and the mechanical "bars." They forgot to give me this test at the recruiting station.
I was diagnosed with hyperphoria and told that I could not be a pilot and would have to transition to navigator training. I sought help from an Optometrist in town who gave me some devices to help train my left eye. I could tell that the Vision Therapy was working and it helped my depth perception. I told one of the Navy doctors at NAMI on a follow-up exam, and his response was that no matter what I did, I was not going to fly airplanes in "his Navy." I gave up Vision Therapy at age 23.
I made it through navigator training and spent the next eight years flying the A-6 aircraft. My eyesight seemed better than 85% of the pilots I used to fly with, because I could frequently pick out aircrafts at great distances that they could not. During one of my flight physicals at NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach, I had another Navy eye doctor tell me that I would be blind in my left eye by 40, and that my condition was so severe, he couldn't understand why they let me fly. I knew this to be bogus, since there was another navigator in my squadron who was obviously wall-eyed [strabismus] while my eye turn is imperceptible, unless I've been drinking or am really tired. I came to the realization that medical professionals are human too, and their diagnosis is a function of experience and education. There is value in a second opinion!
Hindsight is 20/20 (pun intended) and I've always regretted not having worn my patch as a youngster, or seeking Vision Therapy prior to entering the service. Had I done that, I might well be an airline pilot today, making twice my salary as an engineer. I'm 43 and not blind in my left eye. Maybe I will seek out a local optometrist and see if Vision Therapy works on a middle aged person [it does! See Success for Adults].
Source: Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)
Please note: In-office therapy under the direction of a Behavioral Optometrist using prisms, filters and lenses, as used with our patients, is far more effective than home-based therapy.