From time to time, I'll talk informally with patients, either in the office, at the West Park Bagel & Deli, or elsewhere. If the conversation turns to Vision Therapy, people often ask, "Hmm. Do you think Vision Therapy could work for me?"
The answer to this question is always "yes." But before you start thinking that I am talking about a miraculous snake-oil panacea, let me tell you that it is always a "qualified yes."
First, it is important to understand that vision is more than seeing clearly - it is also seeing comfortably. This is the goal of any doctor. It does a patient very little good if they put on glasses and contacts and see exquisitely well, but get a headache every time they wear them. Likewise, it is not very helpful for a child who can see the letters in a book if the letters move around on the page.
Second, it must be understood that vision is learned and, like anything else, it is learned through practice. Most of the structures of the eye are "hard-wired," meaning they will develop on their own from the body's genetic programming. But without visual practice, important visual skills such as clarity of sight, focusing, and eye movements will not develop properly.
That is why the answer is a "qualified yes." Just like any other skill, such as playing the piano, sinking a jumpshot, or winning a chess match, visual skills can be improved with practice. If vision skills are very low - for example, a patient with double vision and headaches - Vision Therapy can make them comfortable. If a patient has very high-level skills, such as a professional athlete, Vision Therapy can make their depth perception even better. In fact, there is a separate type of Vision Therapy called Sports Vision, in which many college and professional athletes work on visual skills at the same time as their strength and speed.
There is one major factor to consider about the benefits of Vision Therapy: motivation. If a person is not motivated, then it will not work for them, no matter what the potential benefits are. Just like if I am not motivated to go to the gym, I'll never lose those last 10 pounds.
As I mentioned here, when I was an optometry student, I realized that I was having problems doing some techniques that are essential for an eye doctor. Obviously I was motivated! Through Vision Therapy, I learned to consciously control my eye movements, and soon I was able to do the things I needed to do.
So the real question to ask is not "Can I benefit?," but "Am I motivated to improve my visual skills?"
If you are unhappy with your vision or experience vision that is uncomfortable, call my office to schedule an appointment. You might be surprised how much better your vision can be!
Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.