Vision Problems - New York Ophthalmology

Should You See a Vision Therapist?

By Sharon A Bell

Is your child having difficulty at school? Does he or she find it hard to copy what's written on the blackboard? Does your child have trouble concentrating?

If so, he or she may have a vision problem and vision therapists claim they can solve that easily. Through a series of eye exercises designed to strengthen the eye muscles and the use of eyeglasses, vision therapists say they can improve your child's eyesight and his school performance.

"Promoters say this regimen will improve scholastic and athletic performance, will increase a student's IQ, and may help keep youngsters from juvenile delinquency. They also claim that it can help with the problem of dyslexia (inability to interpret written language)," according to Dr. David E. Larson, editor-in-chief of the Mayo Clinic Family Health Book.

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The program offered by vision therapists is different from that of conventional optometrists and ophthalmologists. It includes exercises in hand-eye coordination, watching a series of blinking lights, focusing on certain objects, and sleeping in different positions. All these, they said, can eliminate your child's vision problems.

But other doctors disagree. They say the evidence supporting vision therapy is thin and eye exercises have limited uses in vision correction. Although most vision therapists belong to a group called behavioral optometrists, ophthalmologists and even some optometrists said that doesn't make their practice scientific.

Relying on eye exercises for potentially serious eye disorders can spell disaster for the patient. What's more, the unsubstantiated promises offered by vision therapists increase the patient's risk of delaying medical treatment that could save that person's sight.

"Vision training sessions are time-consuming - often once or twice a week - over the course of a year and expensive. There is no evidence that such training has any benefit," Larson said.

To protect yourself from quacks and other unlicensed practitioners, it pays to consult the right person. For help with vision problems, see an optometrist or an ophthalmologist.

An optometrist is one who measures the range and accuracy of vision and prescribes eyeglasses, contact lenses or other optical aids to preserve or restore eyesight. While that person is trained in ocular anatomy and pathology to detect eye diseases, he is not a medical doctor and cannot treat eye diseases or injuries.

Ophthalmologists, on the other hand, are physicians who specialize in eye diseases and vision disorders. They diagnose and treat eye defects and can also prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses.

"Typically, this eye specialist completes four years of medical school, one year of general medical training as a hospital intern, and at least three years in a hospital-based ophthalmology residency program. Some physicians train for an additional year or two to learn sub specialty, such as cornea, and external diseases, vitreous and retinal diseases, glaucoma, pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus, uveitis or neuro-ophthalmology. An ophthalmologist can diagnose and treat eye disease with medicine and surgery and can prescribe glasses and contact lenses, "said Dr. Mark Speaker of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary and Karyn Feiden in The Well-Informed Patient's Guide to Cataract and other Eye Surgery.

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Sharon Bell is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and published author. Many of her insightful articles can be found at the premier online news magazine

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