Pediatric Vision

Parents are always worrying. Are our children eating healthy foods?  Are they getting enough sleep?  Are they getting a cold? One worry that parents commonly have as their children enter school is about vision. Many times parents begin to wonder if their child is squinting and having a hard time seeing the words in books or sentences on the board right around the time when their child enters preschool or elementary school. According to the Annals of Family Medicine, 5 to 10 percent of preschoolers and 25 percent of school-aged children have vision problems.

Due to this statistic, the American Optometric Association (AOA) suggests that infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age. Children then should have additional eye exams at age 3, and just before they enter the first grade — at about age 5 or 6. For school-aged children, the AOA recommends an eye exam every two years if no vision correction is required.

Pediatric Vision exams are pretty painless and can help start children off right in school. If a child can not see the board or words in a book, they could potentially have delays in reading and language development. The following items will be checked in a pediatric exam: near vision, distance vision, binocular (two eyes) coordination, eye movement skills, focusing skills, peripheral awareness, and hand-eye coordination. Visual acuity should be tested as soon as the child is old enough to cooperate with an eye exam using an eye chart. Photoscreening is another way to check visual acuity that does not require a young child to cooperate with the test. Either approach to testing will determine whether the child can focus normally at far, middle and near distances.

As parents, you may want to prepare your child, depending upon the age for the exam. For very young children, you may want to play “eye exam” to help them get used to the idea that someone is going to be looking at their eyes. For older children, explain that these tests are not going to hurt but will help the doctor find out more about their eyes and how well they see. Show your child a picture of the machines that may be used by “googling” eye exam. These machines can look like something from out-of-this-world so, it is good to prepare the child in advance. Another method that works is by bringing your child to your eye exams in advance to show them what the experience is like.

When to Visit the Eye Doctor

Coming up with excuses of why not to get a regular eye exam is easy: too busy, no insurance, need to find a new doctor, and the list goes on and on. But there are many reasons why getting a regular exam is a good idea. The eyes are more than just a window to the soul, they also are a good place to look for signs of trouble brewing in your body such as diabetes or high blood pressure. So when should you see an eye doctor to get a check up and complete vision exam?

Ideally, one eye exam every year should help you to stay on top of your eye health, but some people might need to schedule more than one exam in a year. Vision can change quite a bit over the course of a year, especially for those over the age of 50, and it is important to know when you need to schedule an exam.

Signs you need an eye exam soon:

  • Your eyes are red, dry, itchy, or you are seeing spots, flashes of light, or floaters.
  • You have diabetes or another health condition, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, that affects your eyes.
  • Your family has a history of conditions like diabetes or glaucoma (you may need exams more often).
  • You can’t remember when you last had an eye exam. If it’s been longer than a year, you’re overdue. Yearly exams are a must for most people.
  • You have difficulty driving at night and seeing street signs in the dark.
  • You experience eye strain, headaches and/or blurred vision after spending an extended amount of time in front of a computer screen.
  • You get motion sick, dizzy, or have trouble following a moving target.
  • You hold books or the newspaper further away from your face and squint or close one eye to read them clearly.
  • You notice changes in your vision, especially after an incident of head trauma.

A regular exam can determine if you have nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism or any of the other eye disorders. Cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration can also be determined with regular eye exams.

Vision and Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be an amazing experience full of new feelings and the excitement of the arrival of a beautiful baby.  Unfortunately, pregnancy can also throw more than its fair share of curve-balls.  Swollen feet and ankles, back pain, mood swings and, of course, the dreaded “morning sickness” are just the start of the potential side effects of pregnancy. Many pregnant women are surprised when their vision changes. The fact is that hormonal and physical changes that accompany pregnancy can affect eyesight. Let’s examine the vision issues that can accompany pregnancy.

  • Blurry Vision – Water retention (common during pregnancy) may cause the thickness and curvature of the cornea of your eye to increase slightly. It’s a small change, but it could affect how well your glasses or contacts correct your vision. It’s also why laser eye surgery isn’t recommended during pregnancy and why it’s not a good time to be fitted for new contact lenses.
  • Dry Eyes – During pregnancy, some women may notice that their eyes are drier than usual. Dry eyes can make wearing contacts irritating and uncomfortable. Using artificial tears to lubricate eyes may ease dryness.
  • Vision Changes due to Preeclampsia – High blood pressure occurs in 5-8% of pregnancies. Vision changes due to this condition can include: a temporary loss of vision, light sensitivity, blurry vision, auras, and the appearance of flashing lights. Preeclampsia can be a serious condition.  If these symptoms are noticed, contact a doctor or head to an emergency room immediately.
  • Gestational Diabetes and Vision – Pregnancy can also bring about changes in existing eye conditions – for better or for worse. If you have diabetes, see an ophthalmologist before you get pregnant and again in early pregnancy to get screened for damage to the blood vessels in your retina. This condition, called diabetic retinopathy, often worsens during pregnancy, so you’ll need more frequent eye exams while you’re pregnant and in the postpartum period. (Source- The Baby  Center)

Stye Issues

Have you ever had a red bump that formed on or in your eyelid? It can be painful and unsightly. Chances are that this bump is the result of a blocked gland and is called a stye. Let’s take a closer look at this eye issue, what causes it, and what treatment techniques you can use to get relief from the pain.

What Causes a Stye to Form?

Styes occur when a gland in or on the eyelid becomes plugged or blocked.  A hordeolum stye is a blockage of one of the sweat glands found in the skin of the lid and base of the eyelashes. A chalazion sty is a blockage of a meibomian gland which forms a single row on each lid. Items that could block either gland includes: makeup, scar tissue, dust, or any foreign substance.

Symptoms of a Stye

While you may not recognize the initial symptoms the first time you get a stye, they include:  redness, tenderness, and pain in the affected area. You may think you are getting a pimple on your eyelid. Later signs and symptoms of a stye may include: swelling, discomfort during blinking of the eye, watering of the eye and sensitivity to light. Many times a sty has a small, yellowish spot at the center of the bump that represents pus rising to the surface. For the most part, styes do not cause vision issues but rather physical issues to the eyelid itself.

Treatment or Relief from Styes

Most styes heal on their own after a few days. To get relief from the tenderness and pain, you may want to try a warm compress that you hold up to your eye for 10-15 minutes at a time. Doing this three to four times a day may give you some relief and make the stye begin to drain after the “pimple-like” head ruptures. Be sure to allow the stye to rupture on its own. If the stye continues, your eye doctor may want to see it and rupture in the office and prescribe an antibiotic ointment that will prevent recurrence.

If you find that you commonly have stye issues talk to your eye doctor. Call us at Independent Eye Care at Danvers: 978-774-4500     Beverly: 978-921-5000     Topsfield: 978-887-0068


Pediatric Eye Exams

Parents worry about everything; it’s is only natural. Among other things they worry about keeping their child happy and healthy. Your child’s vision should not be a worry you let slip through the cracks. Eye exams are extremely important because 5-10% of preschoolers and 25% of school aged children have vision difficulties. Due to these statistics the American Optometry Association recommends infants have their first comprehensive eye exam at six months, and children should have additional exams at age three, then again when entering school.

What does a pediatric exam check for?

  • Acuity- A check for near and far distance clarity and sharpness
  • Focusing Skills
  • Eye Tracking Skills and Fixation Skills
  • Binocular Vision or Fusion
  • Stereopsis – two eyed depth perception
  • Convergence Skills – the eyes ability to work together
  • Color Vision

What is involved in an eye exam?

Infant Exams – While an infant can not answer questions and respond the way more verbal children can, the eye exam usually involves:

  • Pupil Response – Does the pupil open and close appropriately?
  • Fixate and Follow – Are your baby’s eyes able to focus and follow an object?
  • Preferential looking – This assesses vision capabilities without a typical eye chart.

Preschool and School Age – Now that children are able to carry on conversations the eye exam can check other areas.

  • Retinoscopy – Helps your eye doctor determine eye glass prescription.
  • Stereopsis – 3D glasses and tests with special patterns are used to evaluate how well your child’s eyes are working together.
  • LEA Symbols – This is similar to a regular exam except that it uses shapes for children to identify instead of letters.

Having your child eye’s examined is critical to the early years of learning.  A child that is having difficulty seeing will also have difficulty reading and learning.  Make an appointment today for your child’s vision exam.



What to do in an Eye Emergency

Our eyes are an amazingly vital component of our everyday life.  They help us navigate our surroundings, “read” the emotions of the people around us and tackle everyday common tasks. Even dry, itchy eyes during allergy season can seem unbearable to some and interfere in going about our daily activities.  But what if you are facing something more serious than allergies, and you think you may have en eye emergency.  What should you do?  What constitutes an eye emergency and what steps should you take to remedy the situation?

What is an eye emergency?

Eye emergencies could include cuts, scratches, objects in the eye, burns, chemical exposure, and blunt injuries to the eye or eyelid. Certain eye infections and other medical conditions, such as blood clots or glaucoma, may also need prompt medical care. If you notice any of the following symptoms then you may be having an eye emergency:

  • Sudden vision loss
  • Pain in or around the eye
  • Redness accompanied by pain in the eye
  • Halos (colored circles around lights)
  • New floaters (spots, strings, cobwebs, or shadows before the eyes)
  • Bulging of the eye or swelling of eye tissues
  • Flashes or streaks of light
  • Double vision
  • Sudden crossed, turned or “wandering” eye
  • Discharge, crusting or excessive tearing
  • Eyelids stuck together, especially upon awakening
  • Sudden blurring of vision that persists

What should I do?

Since the eye is easily damaged, any of these conditions can lead to vision loss if untreated. It is important to get medical attention for eye or eyelid injuries and problems. In most cases, if you have continuing symptoms of pain, visual disturbance, or bleeding, you should go to an ophthalmologist or optometrist. In general, if you are not sure if you have a serious eye injury, call your ophthalmologist for advice.

  • If you believe your eye has been exposed to chemicals, your doctor may want you to use an eye wash before heading to the hospital or eye doctor’s office.
  • Foreign bodies that are not removed with gentle washing should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist.
  • If an object has impaled your eye or the area around the eye, do not remove it.  Doing so may cause more damage.  Call 911 immediately.

While seeking medical help head these warnings:

  • Do not press or rub an injured eye.
  • Do not remove contact lenses unless rapid swelling is occurring, there is a chemical injury and the contacts did not come out with the water flush, or you cannot get prompt medical help.
  • Do not attempt to remove a foreign body or any object that appears to be embedded (stuck) in any part of the eye. Get medical help right away.
  • Do not use cotton swabs, tweezers, or anything else on the eye itself. Cotton swabs should only be used on the eyelid.


What are Ocular Migraines?

Headaches come in all sorts of horrible varieties:  tension, stress, sinus, cluster or plain old migraines to name just a few.  But have you heard or experienced an Ocular Migraine?  These are unique types of headaches that can be both alarming as well as disabling.  Let’s look at this rare type of headache and see how it may  impact vision and daily activity.

What exactly is an Ocular Migraine?

About 1 in 200 people (who regularly experience migraines) will experience these rare migraines.  Ocular Migraines cause vision loss or  temporary blindness in one or both eyes usually following a migraine headache.  Experts sometimes call these episodes “retinal,” “ophthalmic,” or “monocular” (meaning one eye) migraines.

Symptoms of an Ocular Migraine:

Many people report seeing flashing lights, dimness of vision, blind spots in the field of sight, or sometimes blindness. In addition, these symptoms are usually accompanied by a migraine headache that lasts about a day or so.  The migraine may impact only one side the head, pulsate or be worse with activity and light.  To add insult to injury, nausea and vomiting may accompany this type of headache.

Causes and Treatment –

Headache specialist are unsure why some people experience these types of migraines while others do not.  It may be related to spasms in the blood vessels in the back of the eye or nerve cells in the retina. It is important to seek immediate advice/treatment from your eye doctor to rule out any other condition that may be causing this eye event.  As far as treatments go, your doctor will probably prescribe medication to ease the pain as well as prevent future occurrences such as drugs used to treat epilepsy or depression.  Please discuss any symptoms involving your migraines with your health care professional and your personal eye doctor.


Crusty, Goopy, Itchy

Those are three ways that people commonly describe conjunctivitis or “pink eye.” If you have ever had this type of eye infection, you know how much of a nuisance it can be and how the symptoms can be both icky and painful.  In short, conjunctivitis is the infection of the conjunctiva which is the layer of tissue that lines the inner surface of the eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. A resulting infection causes a build up of crusty goopy discharge coming from one or both eyes. Let’s look at conjunctivitis and find out its causes, types and treatments.

Common Symptoms of Conjunctivitis – The first step to treating this eye disease is to look at the symptoms to be sure that there is not another underlying eye disorder that is causing the crusty build up on the eyelid of your eye – like a blocked tear duct or different infection.  Consult with your doctor to confirm your suspicions.

  • A gritty feeling in one or both eyes
  • Itching or burning sensation in one or both eyes
  • Excessive tearing
  • Discharge coming from one or both eyes
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Pink discoloration to the whites of one or both eyes
  • Sensitivity to bright lights

Types and Treatments  of Conjunctivitis – Causes of conjunctivitis range from environmental irritants like shampoos, smoke, pool chlorine and dirt to allergens like pollen and dust and even viral or bacterial infections.  There are three main classifications of of this particular eye disorder including: bacterial, viral, and allergen.

  • Bacterial Conjunctivitis – Pink Eye that is caused by a bacteria can be treated with eye drops or ointments applied directly to the eye usually for several days, several times a day.  The infection, if it is bacterial in nature should clear up within the week.
  • Viral Conjunctivitis – Pink Eye that is caused by a virus in the eye may be similar to a virus that causes the common cold. This type of pink eye tends to be very contagious.  To avoid contaminating others wash hands frequently, throw out used make up and possibly used contacts.  Infected patients should also avoid contact with others.
  • Allergen Conjunctivitis – Allergy-associated conjunctivitis should improve once the allergy is treated and the allergen removed. See your doctor if you have conjunctivitis that is linked to an allergy.




There are many eye disorders that adults and children have that are widely understood and discussed. Most of us understand the concept of being nearsighted and farsighted. Astigmatism, however, is probably one of the more confusing and misunderstood eye problems.  Not only is the vision problem commonly mispronounced but its origin and type of problem is widely misconstrued.  Let’s examine the eye problem astigmatism, what it is and how eye doctors treat it.

What is Astigmatism?

Astigmatism is a fairly common refractive error occurring in about 28% of the population. Refractive errors often are the main reason a person seeks the services of an optometrist or ophthalmologist. What a refractive error means is that the person is seeing blurry because optical imperfections are preventing the eye from properly focusing/bending (refracting) light. The primary refractive errors are nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.

The Cause of Astigmatism –

The eye’s ability to focus/bend light sharply on the retina primarily is based on three eye anatomy features: 1) the overall length of the eye, 2) the curvature of the cornea and 3) the curvature of the lens inside the eye. Astigmatism occurs when he cornea is not perfectly spherical, then the image is refracted or focused irregularly on the retina. A person can be nearsighted or farsighted with or without astigmatism.

Treatment for Astigmatism

An eye specialist can determine the extent of your refraction problem by using a computerized instrument (automated refraction) or with a mechanical instrument called a phoropter. These methods allow the doctor to show you one lens at a time to find the right refraction for your eye.  Your eye doctor will use the results of your refraction to determine your eyeglasses prescription which can mean eyeglasses or contact lenses. If you prefer contact lenses a special fitting can also help find the right prescription for your eye.  There is also refractive surgery that can assist in these types of cases.  Talk to your eye doctor about what is right for your unique eyes.

Contact Independent Eye Care in Danvers, Beverly or Topsfield.

Danvers: 978-774-4500     Beverly: 978-921-5000     Topsfield: 978-887-0068

Optometrist vs Opthamologist

What is the difference between an Optometrist and an Opthamologist? We get this question quite a bit and the terms seem to confuse many people.  So we thought our blog might be a great place to explain the differences. Ophthalmologists and optometrists each play an important role in providing eye care to patients. Let’s look at the different jobs and services each eye care professional can offer.  

A Doctor of Optometry (O.D.)  is a medical professional but not a physician.  Most optometrists spend four or more years after getting their college degree getting an advanced degree in optometry.  Still other optometrists undergo additional clinical training after optometry school. They focus on regular vision care and prescribe eyeglasses and contacts. Optometrists are trained to diagnose and treat vision conditions like farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatism, as well as fit and prescribe contact lenses and prescription eyeglass lenses. In the past couple of decades optometry has become much more than just eye exams and rather more medically oriented. Optometrists now receive rigorous and comprehensive training in not just optics and refractions, but also the diagnosis and treatment of eye disease, as well as other systemic conditions that can affect vision and eye health.

Opthamologists are M.D.s are physicians. After medical school Ophthalmologists did an internship and residency in the eye field for three or more years.  This type of medical doctor provides complete eye care including: vision services, eye surgery for diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma, medical care for disease such as iritis, and other eye disorders. They can also perform surgery for drooping eyelids, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

When it is time to get your eyes checked make sure you are seeing someone you feel comfortable with and trust.  Independent Eye Care can help you with your eye care needs and find you the right doctor for the job.