What is Behavioral Optometry?

N. Ayers

Behavioral optometry is a form of alternative medicine that takes holistic approaches to improving vision problems. Patients are treated with corrective lenses that help reduce stress on the eyes as well as training to help them see better from a distance. Visual therapy is also used by behavioral optometrists to encourage patients to learn new skills, such as sporting activities that reinforce the ability for eyes to focus, process visual information and align properly. 

Behavioral optometry takes a holistic approach to vision.
Behavioral optometry takes a holistic approach to vision.

The treatment process is usually started by testing the patients on a variety of eye related abilities. The tests help determine how well patients perform in activities such as reading letters on a chart, and they analyze areas such as hand-eye coordination and perception of color. Corrective lenses are a component of behavioral optometry that might be used to treat vision problems. When prescribed, these lenses are designed to function differently from traditional glasses. Stress relief from activities that cause eyes to focus on elements close-up, such as working on a computer or reading, is the purpose of corrective lenses. 

Behavioral optometry begins with testing a patient's vision.
Behavioral optometry begins with testing a patient's vision.

Behavioral optometrists also work to retrain the eyes to process visual information from a distance. Lenses prescribed to patients treated through behavioral optometry often include small prisms that might help improve their vision patterns. These prisms force the brain to make the eyes work together, especially if they are prone to imbalances such as going up, down or out when in use.  

Behavioral optometrists may teach someone a skill like juggling.
Behavioral optometrists may teach someone a skill like juggling.

Vision therapy is another element of behavioral optometry, and it includes exercises that features relaxation techniques for the eyes. This therapeutic process also aims to help the eyes relearn lost skills by making improvements that help a patient's brain control his or her focusing abilities, eye movements, vision information processing and eye alignment. Vision therapy does not focus exclusively on exercising the eyes, because that can cause the eye muscles to become fatigued. Instead, behavioral optometrists teach patients to learn a new skill, such as juggling or playing ball games, and how to practice relaxation techniques.

This form of alternative medicine might also include lifestyle alterations that can be used to improve vision. These alterations include making changes to a patient's diet, monitoring and improving sleep patterns and managing stress. Some behavioral optometry experts suggest that this particular form of alternative medicine can also help treat problems that children have in the areas of learning, spelling, reading and coordination. These experts also highlight this treatment as a solution to attention problems and hyperactivity.

Regularly scheduled vision tests may help identify vision problems at an early stage.
Regularly scheduled vision tests may help identify vision problems at an early stage.

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