Astigmatism: What does that mean??

Of the five senses, vision is probably the most taken for granted and least thought about, that is until you go to an Optometrist and hear that you have astigmatism. “What does that mean?” you think, and hopefully ask. Astigmatism is one of the most common problems with vision.  Astigmatism occurs when the cornea or lens has stretched or simply formed into an irregular shape. Whereas a “normal” cornea is round, the cornea is oblong when there is astigmatism.

What this means is light will not hit the eye as it should: a refractive error occurs due to the oblong shape, resulting in difficulty in reading and viewing objects up close.  Additionally viewing object from a distance may also become difficult and blurry.

Astigmatism is part of a group of related eye conditions, known as refractive errors. This group also includes myopia, which is more commonly known as short-sightedness; and hypermetropia, or long-sightedness. So if you have astigmatism then you are more likely to have of these conditions as well.

The good news is this condition can be treated with a variety of options depending on if it presents as invasive or non- invasive. The treatment can be as simple as wearing glasses and/or contact lenses to correct your vision; or if you prefer a more in depth solution you can undergo LASIK surgery. LASIK surgery is a refractive surgery that addresses not your astigmatism but also myopia and hypermetropia. The surgeon re-shapes the cornea to improve visual acuity.

If surgery is not an option you wish to use, then contact lenses may appeal to you. Toric contact lenses are what is typically prescribed for anyone who has astigmatism. What makes this contact lens different from the traditional contact lens is the thicker zone at the bottom. This added thickness keeps the lenses from rotating and provides a consistent positioning while on the eye.

So astigmatisms are nothing to be concerned over. As we grow older our eyes, along with our bodies ages and deteriorates. If you are already wearing glasses or contact lenses then this condition should be identified during a regular check up. However, if you find you are beginning to experience headaches and notice a change in the quality of your eyesight then it is  recommended you see your optometrist.  By the way, this condition is hereditary, so if anyone in your family has astigmatism you should be sure to inform your optometrist.

Everyone Loves their OD, Even Justin Timberlake!

Everyone Loves their OD, Even Justin Timberlake!

I’m a fan of JT and it looks like his is a fan of his Eye Doctor! When I saw this I couldn’t resist writing a blog about 20/20 vision! Just what exactly does 20/20 vision mean?

Visual acuity is usually measured with a Snellen chart.

The expression “20/20″ is so common in the United States that there’s even a TV show named after it. But what does it really mean? Here’s where the 20/20 designation comes from.

By looking at lots of people, Optometrists have established what a “normal” or average human being should be able to see when standing 20 feet away from an eye chart. If you have 20/20 vision, it means that when you stand 20 feet away from the chart you can see what the “normal” human being can see. (In metric, the standard is 6 meters and it’s called 6/6 vision). In other words, your vision is “normal” — most people can see what you see at 20 feet.

If you have 20/40 vision, it means that when you stand 20 feet away from the chart you can see what an average human can see when standing 40 feet from the chart. To further clarify: if there is a person with “normal” vision standing 40 feet away from the chart and you are standing only 20 feet away from it, you both can see the same detail. 20/100 means that when you stand 20 feet from the chart you can see what a person with “normal” vision standing 100 feet away can see. 20/200 is the cutoff for legal blindness in the United States.

You can also have vision that is better than the norm, which is stated in the opposite ratio. A person with 20/10 vision can see at 20 feet what a person with “normal” vision can see at 10 feet.

Levels of Vision

20/20 – Normal vision. Fighter pilot minimum. Required to read the stock quotes in the newspaper, or numbers in the telephone book.
20/40 – Able to pass Driver’s License Test in all 50 States. Most printed material is at this level.
20/80 – Able to read alarm clock at 10 feet. News Headlines are this size.
20/200 – Legal blindness. Able to see STOP sign letters.

So all this leads me to ask…Is JT saying is new CD is a “Normal” or “Average” Experience???

Next Posting: What the heck is that thing in front of JT’s face and what does it do??

Could Aspirin Increase the Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

Say it ain’t so! Could it be that our miracle cure-all can contribute to age-related vision loss when taking regularly?

A new study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that there could be a link between regular aspirin use and an increased risk of developing the more severe “wet” form of age-related macular degeneration; even when smoking and heart disease risks are taken into account. The researchers found that the relationship was “dose-dependent” (the more aspirin a person took on a regular basis, the higher the risk of the vision loss condition).

Age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness among people over the age of 55), is a condition that occurs when the retina begins to degenerate. It is characterized by loss of sight in the center of the field of vision.  There are two main types of macular degeneration: Dry (more common) and wet (which is rarer but more severe). Wet age-related macular degeneration occurs when blood vessels leak into the macula (which is located in the middle of the retina), thereby blocking vision.

The study which was conducted by University of Sydney researchers included 2,389 people whose aspirin habits and vision loss were tracked over 15 years (via four examinations). Of those people, 257 (or 10.8 percent) regularly took aspirin; however, researchers didn’t provide full information on why these people took the aspirin.

By the end of the 15 year study period, 24.5 percent of the study participants had developed “wet” age-related macular degeneration. The researchers’ discovered that a greater proportion of regular aspirin users had the disease than the aspirin non-users.

Even in light of the results, the researchers did not feel that the evidence was strong enough to suggest people stop regular aspirin use, though some who may be at an increased risk for age-related macular degeneration might want to talk to their doctors about their risks.

This is not the first study to show a link between regular aspirin use and macular degeneration. A study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that regularly taking aspirin for a decade is linked with an increased risk of developing the eye disease.

Another study, published in 2011 in the journal Ophthalmology, showed that people who take aspirin twice a day have a fifty percent greater risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration, compared with people who don’t regularly take aspirin. However, even that risk is still relatively low.

So what does it all mean?? Who knows! I will continue to take aspirin as needed, but I do think it is something to keep an eye on (pun intended)!

To read original article click here:

How Many Blinks Are Enough?

“How many blinks are enough to keep your eyes moist and prevent eye strain?”  This is a question I get fairly often in my practice.  A low blink rate can cause irritated eyes (“eye strain”). Small fonts and poor type contrast, can contribute to low blink rates.  But the good news is eye strain is not permanent.

Some people believe that they could be “hurting” or “damaging” their eyes by using small type on their computer screens. However, Dr. Kimberly Yen, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Baylor College of Medicine states:

 “Despite popular belief, sitting too close to the television, or in this case the computer, won’t cause blindness or other permanent damage, what it can do is cause eye strain symptoms.”

When eyes are focused on one item for a long period of time, whether it’s a computer screen, television or even a book, the blink rate slows. That could lead to eyes feeling dry or uncomfortable. Vision could even begin to blur or double. One common side effect of eye strain is headache.

source: Baylor College of Medicine

There is an interesting article in Eye Magazine that breaks down specific stressful conditions for one’s eyes:

  • reading small text sizes
  • reading low-contrast gray text
  • reading with a light source behind the reading material to cause glare
  • reading from too close a distance, which causes the eyes to point inward towards each other (convergence stress)
  • reading from variable focal distances (accommodative stress)
  • reading while wearing glasses that simulate an astigmatism (refractive stress)

“Small text sizes, low contrast, glare and refractive stress all resulted in increased activity in the orbicularis oculi, while convergence stress and accommodative stress did not, though after reading in these two conditions, readers are more likely to report headaches and pain coming from behind the eye. Stressors such as small text size and glare are reported as irritation on the front of the eye.”

They conclude that the blink rate is a key factor in eye stress. Difficult-to-read text (e.g. small text) causes a lower blink rate.  They go on to add:

“Light grey text on a white background and small text size both lead to an increased orbicularis oculi activity and decreased blinking. These two conditions are related to text quality, and we would expect to find similar indicators of eye fatigue with poor font quality or condensed letter spacing. To reduce this type of eye strain, we need text of the highest possible quality.

…other studies found that we blink far more often under relaxed conditions than while reading: 22 blinks per minute while relaxed, versus ten blinks per minute while reading a book. A recent study at Pacific University illuminated why blinking is suppressed during reading. Tai and Sheedy found that the eye movement following a blink was far more likely to be a regressive or backward corrective eye movement than one that did not follow a blink.”

My advice is to bump up the size of the font that you are reading anytime you start to feels the symptoms of eye strain. Since it is not a permanent condition, you should experience relief in a short amount of time.

Hillary Seeing Double……

For those of you who watched the senate hearings you may have noticed that Hillary Hillary Clinton with EyeglassesClinton was wearing glasses throughout.  These were not just a fashion accessory. If you look closely you will see tiny vertical lines over the lens.  This is an adhesive over the lens called “ Fresnel prism.”  This is commonly used to ‘bring things into focus’ for those individuals with double vision. It is believed Hilliary is suffering from double vison symptoms after she suffered a recent head trauma.   If you are wondering what caused her double vision it could be answered the way Hiliary likes to answer questions:

”Is her double vision due to a brain bleed, or due to the concussion she experienced when she passed out and hit her head in December?  What difference, at this point, does it make?  It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.” If you or someone you know suffers a head trauma like a concussion be aware that one of the lingering effects is double vision. You should consult with your eye care professional anytime you receive a head injury.

Read more:

What is POTS and Dysautonomia?? By Jodi Rhum

My name is Jodi Rhum, and I have worked for Visibly Better Eye Care for a little over one year. I am a mom, a former middle school teacher, an author, and now an optometric technician.  I have four kids, two of whom have a chronic medical condition called POTS or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. As a mother and now someone who works for an optometrist, I wanted to share with you what POTS is as this syndrome quite often comes with a myriad of eye related symptoms that we will discuss in further blog posts.

POTS is one of the most diagnosed syndromes today; yet few people have ever heard of it. POTS has been around for centuries and was quite prevalent during the time of the Civil War when it was called Soldier’s Heart. It was once thought to be very rare but now Mayo Clinic believes that 1 in 100 people have POTS. POTS is a form of dysautonomia, which is an umbrella term that is used to describe a compilation of very complex symptoms, in which the autonomic nervous system has failed to function normally. The autonomic nervous system controls our bodies involuntary actions such as: heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, temperature control, etc.. People who have POTS may have some or all of the symptoms listed: headaches, dizziness, tachycardia, chest pain, fatigue, insomnia, fainting or near fainting, anxiety, GI issues, brain fog, nausea, etc.. Many people who have POTS are typically high achievers and many were former athletes. Many dancers, gymnasts and cheerleaders tend to be prone to getting this syndrome. POTS is often triggered at puberty though it can appear at any age and is more common among girls than boys. (5 to 1) Many people who suffer from migraine headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and or chronic fatigue syndrome, may actually, in fact, have POTS.  Almost always POTS is a secondary syndrome that is caused by a primary illness. It is important to figure out the underlying cause of POTS so that proper treatment options can be put into place. Some underlying conditions that often cause POTS are: Mononucleosis, Strep, West Nile Virus, Lyme’s Disease, a trauma, diabetes, a trauma, pregnancy, EDS (a connective tissue disorder)etc.. There is no known cure for POTS. If you would like more information on this syndrome, you can purchase a copy of my book on Amazon called POTS: Together We Stand, Riding the Waves of Dysautonomia.  Stay tuned for more blogs on this topic and how they relate to eye issues.

Some Suggestions for Sunglasses for the Golfer from Dr. Strasser

Although Labor day has passed and summer is over, there are still plenty of good golfing months left!   I asked our resident golfer, Dr. Strasser to write up some different recommendations for sunwear while golfing.  Although Dr. Strasser prefers for himself an amber tint, that may not be right for everyone. And remember…studies predict cataracts 10 years earlier without regular use of sunglasses. Here are some of his recommendations:

There are many different options for the golfer, here are few of my favorites:

  • Nike Max TransitionsShow-X2′ -  These come with 2 polycarbonate lenses options that respond to different light conditions. The violet “golf tint” lens improves contour recognition on the putting green, while the “outdoor tint” brightens shadows and increases contrast (both 100 % UV protected).    $199;
  • Adidas Raylor -offers a frame composed of SPX, a lightweight, shatterproof material. Vision Advantage PC lenses are water  repellent and anti-scratch coated, allowing adaptability to changing light and weather conditions.  $100 ;
  • Calloway Hawk Transitions - equipped with Neox Transitions Adaptive Sunwear lenses, the Hawk automatically adjusts to changes in light with 100% UV protection. $200;
  • NYX Jet-a hybrid-style aviator, the Italian-made “Arctic Blue” lens is infused with amber to provide high-contrast enhancement. The multilayer blue mirror minimizes eye fatigue. $60;
  • Tiflis Tempt-these offer squint free performance via Fototec lens, which contain embedded photochromic particles that react to UV rays in bright sun by darkening the optics.  In cloudy conditions, the process reverses to let in more light. $60;

These are just a few of the many choices available today. More information can be found at


August is National Children’s Vision and Learning Month

August is national children’s vision and learning month, which provides the perfect opportunity to talk about the importance of having a professional eye examination versus a RN administered school screening.  I also want to share my personal experience with my son’s vision.

This past year I noticed my 7 yr old son, Noah,  was having a problem in reading. As an Optometrist, I knew this could possibly be a vision issue.  I checked his eyes, and had Dr. Kaplan check his eyes as well (as all of us parents know, children usually respond better  to others than to their own parents).  My son was 20/20 at distance and 20/20 at near when his eyes were tested individually, but when using both eyes he really struggled at near to see the 20/20 line.  His eyes were having trouble working together as a team and therefore he had difficulty in tracking a line of text across a page.  He also had difficulty moving from one line to the next line.  He kept saying “where was I?”   None of this would have been detected by a standard in school vision screening which he would have passed because he was 20/20.

A school visual screening only tests the vision for distance on the Snellen chart (the big E chart).   According to the AOA “when vision problems go undetected, children almost invariably have trouble reading and doing their school work.  They often display fatigue, fidgeting and frustrations in classroom, traits that can lead to misdiagnosis of dyslexia or other learning disabilities. Standard school vision screenings miss 1/3 of children with eye or vision disorders.”

When children do pass these screenings it gives parents a false sense of security because their child has 20/20 vision.  What these screening fail to test are: eye movements, eye focusing abilities, near vision, color vision, and probably the most important of all determining if the eyes are aligned and work together as a team such as in tracking and depth perception.  All of these play an important role in how a child learns, contributing to staying focused and the ability to read.  In Illinois, prior to entering kindergarten, all children must have an eye examination by a licensed eye care professional.

My advice is to take time to read with your child and determine if his/she might need further testing. After all, who wouldn’t want their child to see visibly better?