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Vision Transparency: Let's Clear a Few Things Up

Vision Transparency: Let's Clear a Few Things Up

January 31, 2018
Your Vision

Life can be a blur, but when it comes to your vision, everything should be clear.

We talk about transparency a lot at Lifetime Vision, as you might imagine. It’s important that our customers are seen by the best doctors and technicians, and that we’re recommending the best options for your treatment if you have eyesight issues.

It all starts at optometry school….

Transparency I – Doctor Training

How would you like to pay for your kid’s optometry schooling, only to then be unable to pass the national and state board exams when they finish?

When I started back in the fall of 1979, there were 13 schools of optometry in the United States and they were primarily university-based. Today, there are 23, and as is happening in many other fields such as law, pharmacy and podiatry, many of them are for-profit schools.

Turns out many graduates of these schools come out with a quarter of a million dollars in debt, but they aren’t trained well enough to pass their boards. All that money, all that time and they won’t be able to practice.

It wasn’t until recently optometry schools decided to publish their graduates’ national board exam pass rates. It turns out many for profit schools had less than a 50% pass rate.

As chair of the North Dakota Board of Optometry and a member of the Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry (ARBO), I believe transparency about exam pass rates are crucial, not just for optometry schools aligned with universities, but all of them.

Another issue being discussed in the profession is how many times someone should be allowed to take a board exam and fail before we say, “OK, that’s enough, you can’t take it anymore”? But that’s a topic for another day.

Transparency in the system is the only way to ensure students know ahead of time which schools will best prepare them to pass exams and go on to successfully practice their profession.

Not only is important to them; it’s a critical matter to the eye health of their future patients.

Transparency II – Advances in Cataract Surgery

The most common complaint we hear, and we hear it almost daily at Lifetime Vision, is about poor nighttime vision.

Over time, as people age, the human lens right behind the colored part of the eye gradually loses transparency and gets  cloudy. Think of it like your windshield in the wintertime, with a little frost on it. It’s pretty darn hard to drive that way. It’s especially difficult to see at night when this happens because the pupil gets bigger and there’s more dispersion of light.

What causes this loss of transparency? Two things:

When the lens gets progressively cloudy, it’s considered a cataract. The treatment is cataract surgery.

The improvements in cataract surgery over the years have been unbelievable. It used to be that you couldn’t bend or lift for weeks afterwards. Now, it’s a five-minute procedure with just topical Novocain and no stitches. A person can even upgrade to have their short-, mid- and long-range vision corrected during the procedure with multifocal implants.

Recently, they’ve announced another new innovation – a light-adjustable lens implant. It’s like looking through binoculars and adjusting them because they’re a little blurry. If your sight is a little blurry after cataract surgery, the surgeon can use ultraviolet light to change the power of the implant to sharpen it. You can dial in sharper focus for up to a month after the procedure is done.

These days, for a lot of people, cataract surgery can be a better option for vision correction than Lasik surgery. 

Transparency III – Cornea

The most common cause for loss of corneal transparency is a condition called Fuchs’ dystrophy, a hereditary ailment that happens in both eyes, primarily in women. It occurs when the innermost layer of cells in the cornea degenerate. These cells normally keep the cornea clear by pumping out excess fluid that otherwise would cause swelling or haziness. With Fuchs’ dystrophy, the cells stop doing their job as well or, sometimes, altogether.

You’ve heard of transplants for eyes? Well, they never really transplanted the whole eye. Instead, they took cornea tissue from organ donors and did full thickness corneal transplants. About 40 percent of those failed, and for those that did work it took a full year to heal completely and the vision wasn’t all that great afterwards.

About 10 years ago, partial thickness transplants of the cornea proved to be a better option. The surgeon will peel off the bad tissue on the inside of the eye and replace it with corneal tissue from a donor.

Since then they refined it even further. The most recent iteration is called Descemet's membrane endothelial keratoplasty, or DMEK. In this procedure, they replace only the pumping cells, no other tissue. The results are phenomenal; vision typically gets back to 20/25 or even 20/20.

The Clear Choice

If you’re losing vision transparency as you age, the solutions are getting better and better all the time. To make sure you’re getting the right treatment for the right conditions, the choice is crystal – contact Lifetime Vision today!

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