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Concussions and Vision Problems

Concussion Vision

With most of the United States fast approaching winter or already in the throes of freak snowstorms, ice is going to become an ever-present annoyance from day to day, especially in our state of Minnesota. With ice comes the danger of slips, falls, and injury, including concussions. Concussions are injuries to the brain that come with some injuries to the head, especially with falls, automobile accidents, and sports incidents. Many symptoms of concussions include vision-related problems, such as blurry vision, seeing double, light sensitivity, and an inability to focus properly. Even headaches, a very common concussion symptom, may be caused not by the concussion itself but by the strain placed on the visual system.

Concussions and Vision

The reason why many major concussion symptoms have to do with vision is because over 70% of neural tissue (brain tissue) is related either directly or indirectly with vision. Therefore, when the brain is injured, it usually causes repercussions in the visual system – either with vision itself or with the processing required to translate and comprehend visual data from the eyes. One of the most common visual problems that people experience post-concussion is called convergence insufficiency, which is essentially the loss of the ability to clearly see near. The reflex that allows you to see near involves three things: convergence (eyes crossing), lens focusing (accommodation), and dilation of the pupils to increase depth of focus (miosis). The part of the brain that controls these functions is often injured in a concussion, and one, two, or all three of these functions may be lost, thus causing blurry vision with reading, computer work, and other near activities.

Good News: Vision Therapy Rehabilitation

The good news is that many vision problems, including convergence insufficiency and accommodative dysfunction, can be treated with reading glasses and vision rehabilitation. If you or a loved one has had a concussion that is causing visual problems, talk to the doctor treating the concussion about the possibility of being referred for vision therapy. You can also come in and see one of our doctors for a full vision exam that can determine whether you need glasses, vision therapy, or both.

If you suspect that you or a loved one has had a concussion, seek immediate medical attention first. Because concussions are injuries to the brain, they must be treated with special attention, and any symptoms that appear in the days and weeks following a concussion ought to be reported, as well.

 

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Dr Mary Gregory - Minnesota Leaders in Healthcare AwardMinnesota Business magazine recognized the elite of Minnesota’s health care professionals at the Leaders in Health Care Awards and Banquet on October 29th, 2014.

This year our own Dr Mary Gregory received the Health Care Practitioner Award. This recognition is given to an individual who has operated at an exceptional level in their field of practice. There is no doubt that Dr. Gregory filled the requirements for this honor because of her passion and energy in promoting healthy vision development for children.

Dr. Mary Gregory and her husband, Dr. Dan Gregory, attended the awards event, held at the Minneapolis Marriott Center.  Mary Lahammer, program host and political reporter for Twin Cities Public Television, was the event emcee.

The other two finalists in Dr Gregory’s category were  Dr. Yoav H. Messinger, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota (http://java02 NULL.childrensmn NULL.org/finddoctor/SpecialistDetail NULL.do?docid=15795655) and Gwen Verchota, Care Delivery Manager, virtuwell (https://www NULL.linkedin NULL.com/pub/gwen-verchota/29/87b/b93).

“As I sat in that room with hundreds of my peers I realized what an impressive group of professionals exist in Minnesota. It was an honor to part of this group of progressive and innovative individuals,” stated Dr. Gregory.

“Then, to hear my name announced as winner was so completely unexpected that I was stunned. I hadn’t even prepared an acceptance speech!”

We at Uptown Eye Care are so very proud to be able to work with, learn from, and be inspired by a doctor whose passion for her profession and love for people has led her to serve  this community.

Congratulations, Dr. Mary Gregory!

Seeing Stars in Vision Explained

Seeing Stars in Vision Phosphene

Have you ever seen spots swimming across your eyes?
This phenomenon of seeing stars in vision is called a phosphene.

Did you ever close your eyes and push on them with your fingers as a child to see waves and patterns of color float across your eyelids?  Perhaps more commonly for adults, have you ever stood up suddenly from reclining or laying down and seen spots swimming across your vision?  Or maybe you suffer from migraines that begin as flashes and spots of light crossing the visual field.  Hopefully you have never been knocked on the head hard enough to cause flashes of light, but that is another way that you may see strange spots that don’t actually exist.  This phenomenon of “seeing stars in vision” is called a “phosphene,” and is the experience of seeing light when no light is actually entering the eye.

How can I see light where no light is present?

There are several ways that the eye can see light where no light is present.  In order for us to see, our retina must be stimulated by light waves, which our brain then translates into an image.  But the retina can also be stimulated physically, electrically, and magnetically.  Most phosphenes that people experience are physically induced. When you rub your eyes or close them and put pressure on them, you activate cells in the retina, which the brain is required to interpret as a visual signal.  Thus, you see waves of color and patterns of black and white.  Since there are no light waves actually entering the eye, the brain cannot create a picture (like a floating meatball sandwich), so you simply see patterns, colors and spots. Other physically induced phosphenes can include seeing spots when you sneeze – sneezing puts a lot of pressure on the eyes and on the light-receiving cells in the eyes.

Fluctuation in blood pressure

When you have been in a reclined position for some time and then stand up, you may experience a drop in blood pressure.  The eye has a very high metabolism, so that drop in blood pressure results in a loss of oxygen to the retina, which can cause it to misfire signals to the brain.  On an opposite note, if you are experiencing seeing stars in vision while pregnant without having just stood up, this can be a signal of pre-eclampsia, a serious condition involving high blood pressure, and you should see your care provider immediately about this concern.  Another physically induced phosphene is caused by migraines.  Migraines are spasms of blood vessels in the brain, and flashes and spots that come on before a migraine are caused by spasms of blood vessels in the retina.

A bump on the head

Finally, seeing spots when you have been hit in the head is not necessarily caused by physical stimulation to the retina, but often because the part of the brain that processes signals from the retina and produces images, known as the occipital lobe, gets bumped.  This can irritate the visual cortex, located inside the occipital lobe, and in the same way that physical stimulation of the retina produces spots, physically stimulates the cells in the visual cortex to produce spots and flashes.

Seeing stars is generally not a concern for eye health

Usually, seeing spots or flashes of light is not a concern and can be explained by one of the reasons above.  However, if you are experiencing a sudden increase of flashes or spots, it can be a sign of a detached retina, which is a medical emergency because it can lead to permanent blindness within a matter of hours.  Contact your eye doctor immediately, and if you cannot reach the eye doctor, go to the emergency room.

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Vision Therapy for Children

Vision therapy is like physical therapy for the eyes.

Many children are involved in sports during the school year. Sports require a great deal of hand-eye coordination as well as good vision in order to perform well. If your child is consistently under-performing in a sport that he or she usually does well in, could a vision problem be the issue?

Some vision skills that children require to play sports include:

  • Hand-eye coordination: Using visual information to move the hands, such as when aiming and swinging a bat.
  • Visual acuity: Seeing objects clearly at different distances, i.e. seeing a hole at a distance and close-up while golfing.
  • Eye teaming: Seeing depth and accurately judging distance while using both eyes, such as when judging how hard to kick a soccer ball.
  • Eye tracking: Keeping eyes together on a moving target or while looking from one object to another, such as while following a volleyball during a game.
  • Eye focusing: Being able to quickly keep an object clearly in focus while it changes distance, like when watching other players during a basketball game.

If any of these vision skills are lacking or underdeveloped, children can have a difficult time in sports and may not be playing the best that they could be. For example, the basketball may be thrown consistently too softly and always miss the hoop by a few inches in the front if eye teaming is poor. If the student has poor hand-eye coordination, they may understand where the volleyball is at but be unable to hit it with the correct part of their arm, causing the ball to hit the net instead of going over it.

How Can Uptown Eye Care Help?

This is where Uptown Eye Care can help. If you suspect your child has a vision problem and it is affecting the sports that the child is playing, bring him or her in for a vision exam. The specific visual problem can be pinpointed and a treatment selected. Examples of treatments that may be prescribed include a glasses or contacts prescription and vision therapy (sometimes called “vision training”). Vision therapy is like physical therapy for the eyes – it may sometimes involve exercises that work out the physical muscles of the eyes but mainly works on the “mental muscles” of the mind that are responsible for translating and interpreting the visual information sent by the optic nerve.

It is important to be sure that your child is wearing appropriate eyewear for the sports that he or she is participating in. Without protective eyewear, the chances of injury increase. Children would benefit from wearing protective eyewear in any sport that includes moving objects or physical contact, such as football, hockey, soccer, tennis, and martial arts. For sports played outside, protection from the sun is also a must. UV rays can cause damage to their eyes, so protective eyewear or sunglasses with UV-blocking coatings are recommended. Visit our clinic to view a selection of protective eyewear and sunglasses today!

 

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Paraoptometric of the Year Award

Paraoptometric of the Year Award

All of us at Uptown Eye Care would like to congratulate our Optical Team Leader, LaRae F. on being chosen as the Paraoptometric of the Year by the Minnesota Optometric Association.

Each year the Minnesota Optometric Association presents this award to a paraoptometric that has made outstanding contributions to the paraoptometric profession.

We think LaRae was the obvious choice for this award. She puts forth much time and effort to lead her team to excellence. She serves as the co-chair of the Minnesota Optometric Association’s Paraoptometric Board and has been a board member for the past 3 years. In this position she has shown dedication to her field by devoting much time and energy to finding skilled speakers and instructors to provide continuing education for all paraoptometrics in Minnesota.

LaRae - Optical Team Leader

LaRae, our Optical Team Leader and Paraoptometric of the Year Award winner.

She personally assists her team members to gain the knowledge and skills needed to become highly skilled paraoptometrics and encourages a supportive team atmosphere by setting team goals and rewarding positive results.

It is obvious to all who come in contact with LaRae that her enthusiasm for paraoptometry is a result of her deep concern and compassion for people. She is always willing to go out of her way to ensure others’ needs are accommodated. Her sense of humor and tendency toward the occasional practical joke keeps all of us on our toes and in good spirits.

LaRae was presented with the award at the Awards Banquet following the Annual Fall Meeting of the Minnesota Optometric Association on September 19th. The event was held at the Marriott Minneapolis Northwest in Brooklyn Center.

Congratulations, LaRae!

Dr Mary Gregory

Dr Mary Gregory – nominated for the Minnesota Business magazine Leaders in Healthcare Award

To health care professionals around the world Minnesota is known as an industry leader. But who leads within Minnesota? Minnesota Business magazine answers that question at the Leaders in Health Care Awards (http://minnesotabusiness NULL.com/finalists-announced-2014-leaders-health-care-awards) by honoring the elite of Minnesota’s health care professionals.

This year Dr Mary Gregory has been nominated for the Health Care Practitioner Award. This recognition is given to an individual who has operated at an exceptional level in their field of practice.

Dr. Gregory, co-owner of Uptown Eye Care and owner of Omni Vision and Learning Center (http://www NULL.omnivisioncenter NULL.com/), both located in Monticello, MN, was nominated for her passion and energy in promoting healthy vision development for children.

Her passion has led her to be a leading participant in the InfantSEE® public health program that is designed to ensure that vision care becomes an integral part of infant wellness by providing eye health evaluations for children between the ages of 8-12 months of age at no cost. Dr Gregory was recognized for her efforts with the presentation of the David E. Sullens InfantSee Award by the American Optometric Association in June of 2014. She also conducts monthly workshops to educate parents and teachers on vision related learning problems. Dr. Gregory’s dedication to ensuring that children have the visual skills essential to function optimally in all areas of life has benefited hundreds of children in her community.

The Minnesota Business magazine’s expert panel of judges selected three finalists for each of 14 categories of the health care field. All the health care professionals and companies nominated will be featured in the November issue of Minnesota Business.

The nominees will be honored and winners revealed at a celebratory event held at the Minneapolis Marriot City Center in downtown Minneapolis on Oct. 29, 2014.

What is a Paraoptometric?

Paraoptometrics are allied health professionals who assist optometrists in providing their highest level of vision care to patients. They extend the optometrist’s capabilities by assuming routine and technical aspects of vision care services. Paraoptometrics are to optometrists what paralegals are to lawyers.

Paraoptometrics perform a variety of duties in the optometric practice. They take care of front desk procedures, billing and coding of insurance claims and patient scheduling.  They may also perform more clinical duties such as pre-testing patients, contact lens procedures, special testing and vision therapy. Paraoptometrics are also trained in ophthalmic optics and skilled at the selection, fitting and dispensing of eyewear.

As part of the vision care team, paraoptometrics help build patient confidence while working directly with an optometrist. A well-trained paraoptometric staff builds a clinic-patient relationship that is not only invaluable to the optometrist, but also ensures a high level of service resulting in patient satisfaction.

The American Optometric Association’s Paraoptometric Recognition Week

The American Optometric Association has designated September 14-20, 2014 as Paraoptometric Recognition Week. Now in its twelfth year, the recognition week is designed to honor paraoptometrics for their dedication to the patients they serve and to the profession of optometry.

Paraoptometrics are key members of the eye care delivery team in optometric offices all across the country. Their role is even more critical to providing the best patient care possible in today’s health care environment.

Linda Rodrigues, CPO, Paraoptometric Resource Center Executive Committee chair, recognized the important role of staff for a successful practice by stating, “Paraoptometrics are an essential part of the eye-care team. The potential of a well-trained optometric staff is of utmost importance and the formula to achieve a successful optometric practice. Optometrists who recognize their paraoptometric staff for their dedication, knowledge and professionalism are rewarded with satisfied patients and practice growth.”

Uptown Eye Care located at 560 Cedar Street, Monticello, MN (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/b/102384119795973095334/+UptownEyeCare/about) plans to celebrate the week recognizing their CPO & CPOA certified staff.

Healthy Eye Care Tips for College Students

Healthy Eye Care Tips for College StudentsThe start of the college semester is just around the corner, and right now most college-bound students are busy packing boxes, preparing schedules, and cringing at the price of textbooks.  For those students’ eyes, college means sleep deprivation, lots of close-up work, screen time galore, and close contact with other germs.  This can lead to eye fatigue, dry eyes and conjunctivitis or other eye diseases.  To help keep your eyes in top shape for the course load ahead, put the following tips into practice.

1.  Take frequent breaks.  Long stretches of time spent staring at a screen, reading a book, or completing homework can take their toll on your eyes, causing fatigue and dry eyes.  To prevent this, remember the 20-20-20 rule: after 20 minutes, look away at something at least 20 feet away, for 20 seconds.  If you are still getting dry eyes even after following this rule, keep some lubricating eye drops on hand (but do not overuse the eye drops; be sure to follow the directions on the bottle).  Try studying outside, as well, which may help you to not lean in so close to your books or computer and prevent fatigued eyes.

2.  Don’t wear your contact lenses in the pool or shower.  Contact lenses are meant for contact with your eyes and sterile liquid only.  Wearing them in the pool can introduce germs or parasites that can populate behind the lens and cause some pretty serious eye infections.  The same thing can happen in the shower (which, especially if it is a community shower, hosts lots of germs anyway).  Don’t wash your lenses with water, either; only use contact lens solution.

3.  Don’t over-wear your contact lenses.  Over-wearing the contact lenses for longer than they are designed for (typically 8-12 hours) produces the same effect as sleeping in them.  Your eyes become deprived of oxygen, and, as a result, your vision may become blurred and inflammation may set in.  If you don’t have a backup pair of glasses, you may want to purchase some before school starts.  That way, as you approach the end of your contact lens usability for the day, you can switch to glasses and prevent negative effects.  Glasses are also great for those days when you are late to class and don’t have the time to put your contact lenses in.

4.  For the ladies, use your own makeup.  You may share everything with your college roommates, from food to clothes to pens to shoes, but don’t share your makeup.  Makeup, especially mascara, is a breeding ground for bacteria, and while your eyes may not be affected by what is living on your mascara or eyeshadow brush, they may get an infection from what is living on your roommate’s brush.  Opt for the “natural look” instead of risking an infection from someone else’s makeup, because the “conjunctivitis look” is not pretty!

5.  Wash your hands frequently.  Another way of getting an eye infection in college is by touching your face (like sleepily rubbing your eyes) when your hands are not clean.  Almost everything you touch will have been touched by plenty of other students, and you don’t want those germs waiting on your hands to leap into your eyes or mouth.  This will also help prevent general illness, too.

6.  Wear eye protection during sports.  From pool chlorine and germs to flying balls and flying elbows, your eyes are at risk of injury during sports.  Make sure to wear the appropriate eyewear for your sport, and consider wearing sports glasses to protect your eyes even if they are not required for your sport.  If you wear contact lenses or glasses, sports glasses with a prescription lens is a great option to avoid broken glasses or injury from the contact lens if you are hit in the face.

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nutrition for cataract prevention

Nutrition is an important part of cataract prevention and maintaining overall eye health.

Cataracts occur when the natural lens of the eye, located behind the pupil and iris, becomes cloudy. This can result in blurriness, sensitivity to light and vision loss. Cataracts are a leading cause of blindness and affect millions of people in the United States, especially those over the age of 40. The only way to treat cataracts is to remove the clouded lens through surgery. The good news is that cataracts are preventable to a certain extent. Follow our tips to ensure that you are doing your part to prevent cataracts.

1. Wear sunglasses with 100% UV blocking. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays harms eyes in many ways and may be one major risk factor in forming cataracts. Consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat, as well, to physically block sunlight from your face.

2. Stop smoking and reduce alcohol intake. Cigarette smoke is extremely harmful in many ways and has been linked to an increased chance of developing cataracts. Quit the habit, and your eyes, body, and those around you will thank you. Consume alcohol in moderation, as well. Just like cigarette smoke, excessive alcohol consumption leads to a host of health issues, including a greater chance of forming cataracts.

3. Manage your health problems. A higher risk of forming cataracts has been linked to diabetes and hypertension. By managing these health issues, you may also lower your risk of forming cataracts.

4. Eat right. This step is important for several reasons. First, obesity is a risk factor for cataracts. If you maintain a healthy weight, you cut out that particular risk factor. Second, studies have found that certain nutrients can help prevent cataracts from forming. These nutrients include vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids. Many of these nutrients can be found in foods like eggs, sunflower seeds, almonds, kale, spinach, and fresh fruits and vegetables. By eating a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, you will also take in a large amount of antioxidants, which may also help prevent cataracts. Plus, a healthy diet will help manage other health issues that may be linked to forming cataracts (such as in tip 3, above).

5. Have regular eye exams. Your eye doctor will be able to look for cataracts before the cataracts start affecting your ability to perform daily tasks. This can lead to treatment and prevent your cataracts from causing blindness! Schedule an eye exam now with one of our eye doctors if you have a concern about your vision or if it has been more than one or two years since you last saw an eye doctor.

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Protecting Your Eyes in a Swimming Pool

swimming pool eye health

Swim goggles are a great way to protect your eyes from chlorine and other irritants.

As summer draws near and the temperature heats up, many people will begin heading to pools to cool off.  Nothing is more refreshing than a leisurely dip into a cool pool on a hot summer day.  But the consequence can be stinging, red eyes, especially in an indoor pool or a pool with a higher level of chlorine.

Why does the pool water affect our eyes?  What can be done about irritated eyes?

There are several reasons why pool water can have a negative effect on our eyes.  First, the water strips away the tear film that coats our eyeballs and protects it from germs.  When that tear film is gone, germs can enter the eye and cause an infection in the eye, or conjunctivitis.  In fact, the spread of conjunctivitis from pool usage is more common than one may think.  Even in chemically treated water, the chlorine does not kill all the germs, nor does it kill germs instantly, so they can still be transferred from person to person.

Second, the chlorine in pools interacts with organic compounds in the water (such as what comes off of swimmers) and creates new compounds, known as chloramines, which act as irritants.  These chloramines also enter the air and are the source of the familiar “pool smell.” For swimmers, once the tear film is gone, the chloramines can enter the eyes and cause stinging, blurry vision, and red eyes.  They also can irritate the skin, and they can irritate the lungs when they are airborne, such as at an indoor pool.

Saltwater pools can also be irritating to eyes, since the salt is turned into chlorine by a generator.  However, some swimmers say that saltwater pools do prove to be gentler on eyes and skin than traditional chlorine pools.  The best thing to do, whether you are swimming in a chlorine pool or saltwater pool (or swimming anywhere), is to wear goggles.  Goggles will protect your eyes from germs, from bugs, from chemical irritants, and from the water removing your tear film.  Also, if you wear contacts, you should remove them when swimming because algae and germs can get stuck between the contact lens and your eyeball, causing infection.  Again, goggles will provide the best protection against infection, but remove contact lenses anyway.

Finally, if your eyes do get irritated, flush them with saline eyedrops or with tap water.  If signs of an infection start to appear or the irritation does not go away within a day, you ought to see your eye doctor.

 

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