Are Your Student Athlete’s Eyes Ready for the Season?

Now that the school year is in session, for many students that also means “back-to-sports.” So we have to ask: Are your student athlete’s eyes ready for back-to-sports season? With 80% of learning tied to a child’s visual system, it’s important that all students are seeing their best to maximize their ability to learn.

Telltale Signs Your Student Athlete’s Vision is an Issue

Not all kids like sports, but for those who do, watch for signs that indicate a need for further vision testing. These include:

  • A typically athletic child seems less excited about playing a favorite sport enjoyed in previous years.
  • Your child has noticeable difficulty seeing the ball (or other players) clearly.
  • He or she shies away from ball sports that include hitting, catching or shooting.
  • Exhibits difficulty tracking where the ball or other players are on the field of play.
  • Over- or under-estimates the distance to the ball, boundaries or other players.
  • Has strong athletic ability but simply doesn’t do well playing ball sports.

If your child exhibits any of these behaviors, we recommend scheduling a comprehensive eye exam so one of our optometrists can check for vision skills that impact sports performance, including eye teaming, eye tracking, focusing and visualizing.

These visual skills are all necessary to tell how distant an object (the ball) is at any given moment in time–a skill called depth perception. Without depth perception, you’ll have difficulty “keeping your eye on the ball” and difficulty with athletic performance in general.

Going Deep Into Depth Perception

Because we have two eyes, humans have the capability of perceiving depth perception, meaning that we can discern how close or far away an object is using visual cues to judge the distance of an object and how fast it’s moving toward or away from us. This is critical in many sports and in many life skills, especially for your young athlete’s eyes.

However, some eye conditions cause depth perception to be diminished and athletic performance to suffer. In the long run, poor depth perception could impact career choices and job performance.

Good Depth Perception is Key for Athletes

Most ball sports require athletes to track the moving ball through space and then either catch or hit it, so depth perception is absolutely crucial for excelling in these sports. And when you consider the speed at which balls are thrown, it’s critical to be sure your child is seeing their best and has good depth perception and peripheral vision. This enables visual awareness of the playing field, which helps to avoid injuries. And of course, eye protection―in the form of sports goggles―is a must for kids who play sports.

Causes of Poor Depth Perception

For good depth perception, the eyes must each be able to accurately focus and clearly perceive objects in space. The eyes must also work together as a team to give the brain information about the distance and rate at which the object is moving. The brain receives input from each eye―each of which offers a slightly different image of the field of vision―and puts them together in a single, three-dimensional image, which is what we “see” in our field of vision.

However, if one eye is not performing as well as the other, the brain won’t receive enough information to provide an accurate “picture,” and the result may be poor athletic performance.

If one eye has excellent visual acuity while the other doesn’t, it can negatively affect depth perception. However, correcting the vision in the poorly performing eye can improve depth perception significantly.

The two most treatable causes of poor depth perception are:

  1. Strabismus—a misalignment of the eyes where one eye “points” in a different direction from the other, whether it’s left, right, down, up or diagonally.
  2. Amblyopia—often called “lazy eye,” this is a condition where one eye isn’t capable of producing a clear image for the brain, so the brain starts ignoring input from that eye.

Finally, the good news is that we can diagnose and treat both of these conditions—in addition to other eye-teaming issues that impact sports performance.

To ensure that your student athlete’s eyes are in good shape, schedule a comprehensive eye exam with us. One of our doctors will test to make sure the eyes are working well together and that vision is functioning optimally for excellent performance both on the playing field and in the classroom.

Tips for Seeing Clearly this School Year

Has your child had an eye exam?

We all have our back-to-school shopping lists:

  • Get school supplies
  • Buy new shoes
  • Schedule sports physical
  • Pay classroom fees
  • Attend Meet the Teacher

Something very important is missing from the list: making an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam for your children! Even if there are no complaints over the summer about blurry vision or headaches, children still need to have frequent eye exams. Just like their bodies are rapidly growing, children’s eyes are changing as well.

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a common condition in children which often develops around the age of 6 or 7. This condition results when the cornea is curved too much or when the eye is longer than normal. When light comes into the eye, it is focused in front of the retina instead of directly on the retina and the child’s vision is blurred. Nearsightedness can worsen rapidly, especially between the ages of 11 and 13, which means that an eye prescription can change dramatically over a short period of time.

Comprehensive eye exams can also detect other eye conditions besides nearsightedness. Some children may have good distance vision but may struggle when reading up close. This is known as hyperopia or farsightedness. Other eye issues such as strabismus (misaligned eyes), astigmatism or amblyopia (lazy eye) are also detectable through an eye exam. For some eye conditions, vision can be permanently affected if the problem is not corrected. Regular exams mean earlier diagnosis and earlier treatment.

Even a small change in vision can cause eye strain, headaches or blurred vision which can be very distracting while in school. Staying consistent with eye exams will help your children to have clear vision and be able to concentrate and perform to the best of their ability. With clearer vision, this school year will be the best ever! Schedule an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam

Tips for Seeing Clearly this School Year

1. Get your child an eye exam before school starts.

The American Optometric Association recommends that children have their first comprehensive eye exam at age one, and again at age three. In addition, children of parents who wear glasses should have an eye exam every year after the age of five. Vision screenings are useful but often miss binocular vision disorders and hidden vision problems.

2. Kids should wash their hands regularly.

The tears and front surface of the eye form a mucous membrane that transmits germs easily. Some eye infections (particularly viral infections similar to the common cold) are extremely contagious. Kids tend to rub their eyes quite a bit, so clean hands will cut-down on eye infections.

3. Ensure children wear protective eyewear when playing sports.

Sporting follies are among the top cause of eye injuries. Even if a child does not need glasses to see, protective eyewear (sports goggles) is a must to guard against dust and dirt in the eyes, eyelid and corneal lacerations, and fractures of the bones that make up the eye socket or orbit.

4. Encourage kids to give their eyes a rest.

Excessive screen time can lead to eye-strain, blurred vision and even nearsightedness. Hand-held electronic (phones, tablets) and computer-use should be limited to 20 minutes at a time and no more than two hours a day – especially if someone in the family already wears glasses.

UV Rays Can Cause Harm to Eyes

You probably know that too much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause sunburn and skin cancer. But did you know UV rays can also harm your eyes? Extended exposure to the sun’s UV rays has been linked to significant eye problems, including cataracts, macular degeneration, pterygia and photokeratitis. As you rub sunscreen on to protect your skin this summer, don’t forget to protect your eyes as well. 

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The Blinding Truth About Fireworks

The numbers are clear: fireworks are dangerous, and the month surrounding July 4th is the most dangerous time. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s most recent annual fireworks injury report  fireworks caused eight deaths and nearly 13,000 injuries in 2017. Two-thirds of the fireworks injuries treated in emergency rooms happened between mid-June and mid-July. The report also found that 14% of fireworks injuries were eye injuries. In the most severe cases, fireworks can rupture the globe of the eye, cause chemical and thermal burns, corneal abrasions and retinal detachment — all of which can cause permanent eye damage and vision loss.

Here are four fireworks facts you should know:

1. Sparklers are NOT safe for young children. Sparklers burn at 1,800 degrees! Sparklers, which many consider harmless, are responsible for most of the injuries to children age 5 and younger.

2. Bystanders are injured by fireworks as often as fireworks operators. An international study of fireworks-related eye injuries showed that nearly half of the people injured by fireworks are bystanders. Two of the most common culprits of firework related injuries are mortar-type fireworks and bottle rockets, which are thrown before they explode and can strike an innocent bystander.

3. It is not safe to pick up a firework after it has been lit. Even though it looks like a dud, it may not act like one. Injury and serious eye trauma can occur when people mistakenly think that a firework is no longer active or hot. Never touch unexploded fireworks and contact the local fire or police department to properly handle it.

4. The Fourth of July can still be a “blast” without using consumer fireworks. The safest way to view fireworks is to watch a professional show. Here is an article by Bham Now on The Alabama Bicentennial Fireworks Show

If you experience a fireworks injury, we urge you to minimize the damage to the eye by doing the following:

• Seek medical attention immediately.
• Do not rub the eye. Rubbing may make the injury worse.
• Do not attempt to rinse the eye.
• Do not apply pressure to the eye.
• Do not remove objects from the eye,
• Do not apply ointments or take pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen before seeking medical help.

As always, Dr. Kye Mansfield, Dr. Jill Meyer and Dr. Rena Lewis are here to help. If you have questions about potential eye injuries or safety precautions, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

Make Eye Health a Priority in your 20’s

Yearly physical? Check. Dentist appointments? Double Check. But what about your eye health?

It’s important to take care of your eyes — just like you take care of the rest of your body! Whether you’re looking forward to soaking in the window view from your corner office or setting your sights on the beach this summer — you can take simple steps now to make sure you’re seeing your best when that day comes.

Healthy Vision Month is the perfect time to learn how to protect your eyes — and help prevent vision loss in the future. This year, we’re encouraging young adults ages 25 to 35 to make eye health a priority now and for years to come.

Our recommendations include:Read More

Women at Higher Risk than Men for Most Eye Diseases

Women make up the majority of the 4.4 million Americans age 40 and older who are visually impaired or blind.  More women than men have age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. One reason why women are affected by eye health issues more than men is because they tend to live longer. Women are also affected by hormonal factors, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI). Women also have greater instances of eye disorders because they:

  • Live longer
  • Are at greater risk for autoimmune diseases
  •  And are more likely to undergo certain cancer treatments that may affect vision.

According to the NEI, 3.6 million Americans age 40 and older who suffer from visual impairment, including blindness, 2.3 million are women. These numbers will only continue to increase in the years to come.

Although there are no cures for these diseases, many of the effects may be lessened through early detection and treatment.

The recent survey results are alarming combined with the results from the Prevent Blindness survey conducted last year by Harris Poll which found that:

  • Less than 10 percent of American women realize that women are at a greater risk of suffering permanent vision loss than men
  • 86 percent incorrectly believe that men and women are at equal risk
  • 5 percent believe that men are at greater risk

Prevent Blindness has designated April as Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month in an effort to educate women about the steps they can take today to help preserve vision in the future. As women age, it is increasingly important to have regular eye exams to detect age-related eye diseases early.


We also recommend:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Taking supplements (as approved by a medical professional)
  • Learning of any family history of eye disease
  • Expectant mothers should be aware of possible vision changes during pregnancy
  • All women who are pregnant or who are planning to become pregnant and have been diagnosed with diabetes should get a full, dilated eye exam
  • Wear UV-blocking sunglasses and a brimmed hat outdoors
  • Use cosmetics safely
  • Use contact lenses safely


The Eye Injury Risks of Baseball Season

For many Americans, the return of spring means baseball season begins! Parents are shopping for different equipment, but too many forget to include an important piece of gear: protective eyewear. Each year, participating in sports causes tens of thousands of eye injuries. Most of these occur in kids, and about 90% of them can be avoided. Read More

Sunglasses for Spring Break: Protect Your Eyes in Style

Spring is almost here, and for many people, that means time to make plans for a Spring Break trip. The most popular trip destinations are those that are warm and sunny, but destinations involving mountains and skiing are appealing to many people as well. Because many vacation plans include a lot of hours logged outdoors, one essential activity before going on that vacation is to make sure your eyes are well protected by quality sunglasses and that you look good wearing them too. Read More

Glaucoma: The Leading Cause of Blindness in the U.S.

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, an important time to spread the word about this sight-stealing disease. Currently, more than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma.

Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it’s permanent. As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing. Read More

Dry Eye: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

One of the most common complaints we hear in our office is “Why do my eyes sting and tear?” Dry eye causes a scratchy sensation or the feeling that something is in the eye. Other symptoms include stinging or burning, episodes of excess tearing that follow periods of dryness, discharge, pain, and redness in the eye. People with dry eye may also feel as if their eyelids are heavy and may experience blurred vision. Read More