Many of my patients have been to multiple doctors seeking answers to their symptoms. Dizziness, headaches, anxiety, imbalance, etc. Many keep telling their doctors, “I think something is wrong with my eyes”. Many have seen an eye doctor or gotten new glasses or contacts recently, but still don’t feel better. A vertical imbalance in the eyes is usually not detected in a routine examination and many optometrists and ophthalmologists have not been trained to detect small amounts of imbalance in the eyes. Some indications that you may have an issue is a head tilt or closing one eye when reading.
Do you find yourself complaining about blurry vision, unable to read road signs, or enjoying books you love? Do you occasionally get headaches or notice yourself squinting often to see things more clearly? You more than likely need a routine eye exam. Most people know how this exam works, the optometrist checks for common eye disorders, checks the basic health of your eye, and sends you with a prescription lasting 1-2 years. According to The Vision Council, in December of 2015, 188.7 million Americans are wearing some sort of vision correction. It is not uncommon to have a visual issue whether it be nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. Common symptoms of a visual issue are blurry vision, headaches, flashes/floaters, any sudden changes in your vision. While these symptoms are seen by Optometrists every day, you may be experiencing different symptoms that you may not even know are related to your eyes!
Ask yourself this: do you experience any of the following?
- Neck pain
- Cutting corners/ running into things often
As shocking as it may sound, these could all be related to your eyes. Those are just a few symptoms of binocular vision disorder. If it sounds like you can relate to any of these, we recommend you come in for a Neurovisual Exam with Dr. Kathryn Collins. This questionnaire will ask you a series of questions, which once completed will be scored, so we can see how severe your symptoms are. (There are no right or wrong answers, just how you feel day to day. Everyone is different.) Once we get your results, we will schedule an examination. This exam will look for vision disorders such as, Binocular Vision Dysfunction, vertical heterophoria or convergence issues. BVD, is when your eyes have trouble working together due to misalignment. You may check out our Neurovision website for more information on BVD.
During the Neurovisual exam, Dr. Kathryn Collins will do in depth tests that will give her answers that cannot be determined during a routine eye exam. If BVD is diagnosed during your exam, the doctor will come up with a treatment plan which usually includes prescribing special prismatic lenses which will help correct the misalignment in your eyes.
If any of the above symptoms seem to be causing a disturbance in your everyday life, or if you have any questions for us, give us a call at (717) 568-0058.
Where clarity meets comfort
Kathryn Collins, OD, of Lititz, Pennsylvania, read about an interesting case that a fellow OD posted on the social media forum ODs on Facebook. The patient in the case had been in a car accident, and despite working with neurologists, physical therapists (PTs) and occupational therapists (OTs), her progress had stalled because she couldn’t see well. Dr. Collins reached out to the colleague, Margaret Shirk, OD, also from Pennsylvania. Dr. Collins sent Dr. Shirk a validated questionnaire for the patient, which could help them determine if the patient could benefit from the neurovisual optometry services she offers.
In 2013, Dr. Collins read an article in Women In Optometry magazine featuring Debby Feinberg, OD, who had started a neurovisual optometry practice in Michigan. In that story, Dr. Feinberg had said she was drawing patients from as far as Pennsylvania. Dr. Collins recalls thinking that wasn’t right. So she contacted Dr. Feinberg to ask how she could bring neurovisual services to her community. Dr. Collins and another OD went to Dr. Feinberg’s office and spent a week learning and training with Dr. Feinberg and her patients with traumatic brain injuries, binocular vision disorders and other imbalance issues.
So Dr. Collins recognized the symptoms of dizziness and instability that Dr. Shirk’s patient, Debra, presented with. Debra came to see Dr. Collins, who determined after a detailed examination that eyeglasses with a small amount of vertical prism would help her symptoms. “After she received her glasses, Debra was able to return to the rehab hospital because the OTs and PTs thought that she could make progress again. The patient was hoping to return to work where she teaches inner-city kids. Now she can,” Dr. Collins says.
Neurovisual optometry isn’t like vision therapy, where patients return to the practice for weeks or even months. “We’re fitting them with glasses that have been shown to reduce patients’ symptoms so they can get back to work, driving and normal life. Sometimes, that means that they can continue on to vestibular, occupational, physical and/or vision therapy with greater success,” she says. But most times, it is not needed.
For the past two years, she has been offering these services in her primary care office. “I hope at some point to be doing mostly neurovisual optometry. I have local patients, but many are coming from as far away as North Carolina and Virginia, so there are enough patients in our communities for many more of us to be offering these services,” she says. Her patients are often referred by neurologists, who think there may be some visual component to a patient’s problem; rheumatologists, whose patients have myofascial pain; and PTs, whose patients continue with dizziness and imbalance. “Many of their debilitating symptoms can be alleviated by realigning the patients’ eyes. In the past, that wasn’t successful because we were not asking the right questions, measuring the right parameters or knowing what to do with the information once we had it. But with the proper research, education and digitally designed lenses, we can prescribe smaller amounts of prism, and it is really helping.”
Neurovisual exams typically last about 90 minutes for a first exam. “But the response is amazing. I’ve gotten more hugs and shared more tears in the two years I’ve been offering neurovisual optometry than I have in my whole career. Patients are so appreciative.”