You Deserve Better Access
to Quality Eye Care
Your Doctors of Optometry
Nebraska’s largest eye care profession includes more than 330 Doctors of Optometry serving in more than 80 communities across the state.
As primary eye care providers, Doctors of Optometry are trained to examine, diagnose, treat and manage disorders that affect the eye or vision. They are an integral part of the health care team, earning their doctoral degree just as dentists, podiatrists and other doctors do. Optometry is one of the only doctoral-level health care professions to require continuing education.
More Helpful Information
Diabetes Awareness Month – Nebraska’s Doctors of Optometry encourage regular eye exams for diabetes prevention
Risks of blindness related to diabetes are increasing, and during Diabetes Awareness Month, the Nebraska Optometric Association (NOA), the leading authority in eye and vision healthcare in Nebraska, is encouraging anyone with diabetes or at risk for diabetes to schedule a dilated, comprehensive eye exam with their local Doctor of Optometry.
Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults. More than 30 million Americans are already diagnosed with the disease and it is expected to affect one in 10 people worldwide by 2040, the International Diabetes Federation predicts.
Yet, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA), as prevalent as the condition is, 79% of Americans don’t know diabetic eye diseases have no visible symptoms and more than half do not know comprehensive eye examinations can detect diabetes, according to the most recent American Eye-Q® Survey conducted by the AOA.
“When the eyes are dilated, an eye doctor is able to examine the retina for signs of diabetic eye disease and prescribe a course of treatment to help preserve an individual’s sight,” said Dr. Eric Gengenbach, NOA president.
“Alternatives like vision screenings or online apps only check for refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism and cannot detect diabetes,” Dr. Gengenbach said.
“Many eye problems show no symptoms until they are in an advanced stage, but early detection and treatment can truly save a person’s vision. No online app can do that,” he said.
The study found that only 54 percent of people with diabetes who were surveyed regularly visit their doctor of optometry to understand the toll diabetes is taking on their overall eye health.
“Nearly a quarter million people each year nationally are diagnosed with diabetes as a result of a visit to an eye doctor. A comprehensive eye examination with a doctor of optometry is important not just to maintain eye and vision health but it can also be a first line of diagnosis for many systemic diseases,” Dr. Gengenbach said.
For more information on diabetes and comprehensive eye examinations, click here.
Find a Doctor of Optometry in your area, here.
Dr. Teri Geist, on behalf of the Nebraska Optometric Association, recently sat down with us to discuss the importance of contact lenses fitting properly.
Q: What are the risks to patients of purchasing contact lenses online?
Dr. Geist: “There are times when I’ve had patients come in that needed a different lens than what I’ve prescribed. We want to make sure it’s accurate. Contact lens fitting is a complicated issue for health reasons, for the cornea. You need to make sure the lens is fitting well, is moving well and the patient is seeing well. When you buy contacts online you want to do so from a reputable seller, and you want to make sure they’re exactly what you ordered and what the prescription is written for.”
Tips for Save Your Vision Month from the Nebraska Optometric Association
By Dr. Scott Reins, Nebraska Optometric Association President
Everywhere we look, we’re reading, shopping, banking, or being entertained online on digital devices small and large—at work, at school, at play, and on our way in-between. In fact, according to the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) 2014 American Eye-Q® survey, 55 percent of adults use computers, smartphones, tablets or other hand-held devices for five or more hours a day. And a separate AOA survey showed that 83 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 use an electronic device for more than three hours a day. Digital use will continue to increase, making it more important than ever for consumers to make smart eye care choices and to see an eye doctor for yearly comprehensive eye exams.
March is Save Your Vision Month, a great time to review tips to keep your eyes healthy and protect the precious gift of sight. Here are three tips to protect your vision.
Give Your Eyes a Break
The NOA recommends following the 20-20-20 rule to ward off digital eye strain – take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away.
Although ongoing technology use doesn’t permanently damage vision, regular, lengthy use of technology may lead to a temporary condition called digital eye strain. Symptoms can include burning or tired eyes, headaches, fatigue, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain.
Early research has also shown that overexposure to high-energy, short-wavelength blue and violet light emitted from electronic devices may also contribute to digital eye strain. Blue light could also increase the likelihood of developing serious eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration. Optometrists offer lens options including non-glare, filtering lenses, to help protect vision from harmful blue light.
“Decorative contact lenses may seem like a fun accessory, but if you’re not careful, they can cause serious eye and vision problems,” advises Dr. Darren Wright, NOA President. “Unfortunately, many consumers mistakenly believe they don’t need a prescription for decorative contact lenses that do not provide vision correction. It’s extremely important that consumers get an eye exam and only wear contact lenses, with or without vision correction, that are properly fitted and prescribed by an eye doctor.”
All contact lenses are classified as medical devices by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and require a valid prescription. Eye doctors are growing increasingly concerned about how accessible decorative contact lenses are and the risks for consumers who purchase them illegally on the Internet, at flea markets, off-the-shelf in retail or drug stores, and even on the street. The American Optometric Association (AOA) has collaborated with the FDA and the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC) to help educate consumers about the importance of acquired lenses only with a valid prescription from an eye doctor.
“Contact lenses are among the safest forms of vision correction when used properly,” says Dr. Wright. “A medical eye and vision examination from your optometrist can determine if you are a good candidate for wearing contact lenses, regardless of whether they provide vision correction or not. During the exam, your eye doctor will make sure your lenses fit properly and teach you how to safely care for your lenses.”
For more information about how to protect yourself against the risks associated with decorative contact lenses visit www.contactlensart.org, and to find additional resources about contact lens hygiene and safety, please visit www.contactlenssafety.org or www.BetterEyecareNebraska.com.
Ready for School: After summer vacation, children returning to school with eye strain due to overuse of digital devices
By Dr. Jeremy Baumfalk
Each year when school starts we see an increase in kids complaining of symptoms of eye strain. Essentially, they’re going from being home over the summer with a minimal amount of time spent using their devices back to a classroom full of technology, and their time on devices often doubles, leading to a strain on the eyes.
According to the American Optometric Association parents severely underestimate the time their children spend on digital devices. Eye doctors are concerned that this significant disparity may indicate that parents are more likely to overlook warning signs and symptoms associated with vision problems due to technology use, such as digital eye strain.
Most kids say they spend at least three hours a day using technology. However, in a separate survey of parents we found that only 40 percent of parents believe their children use an electronic device for that same amount of time. This lack of awareness may indicate that parents are more likely to overlook warning signs and symptoms associated with vision problems due to technology use, like digital eye strain.
Symptoms of digital eye strain include headaches, fatigue, blurred or double vision and dry eye. Each of these symptoms can have a great impact on a student’s comfort and productivity, whether they are at school or home.
The Nebraska Optometric Association suggests following some simple guidelines to prevent or reduce eye and vision problems associated with digital eye strain:
- Check the height and position of the device. Computer screens should be four to five inches below eye level and about two feet away from the eyes. Digital devices should be held a safe distance away from eyes and slightly below eye level.
- Check for glare on the screen. Windows or other light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in front of a computer monitor. If this happens, turn the desk or computer to prevent glare on the screen. Also consider adjusting the brightness of the screen on your digital device or changing its background color.
- Reduce the amount of lighting in the room to match the computer screen. A lower- watt light can be substituted for a bright overhead light or a dimmer switch may be installed to give flexible control of room lighting.
- Adjust font size. Increase the size of text on the screen of the device to make it easier on the eyes when reading.
- Keep blinking. Frequent blinking helps minimize the chances of developing dry eye when using a computer or digital device by keeping the front surface of the eye moist.
The NOA recommends a comprehensive eye exam prior to heading back to school. And, children now have the benefit of yearly comprehensive eye exams thanks to the Pediatric Essential Health Benefit in the Affordable Care Act, through age 18. Comprehensive eye exams are one of the most important investments a parent can make to help maximize their child’s education and contribute to their overall health and well-being.
By Dr. Mike Hausmann, a Vision & Learning Program participating optometrist
The Nebraska Foundation for Children’s Vision is conducting a pilot project in cooperation with Lincoln Public Schools Health Services to help those students who may not have access to vision care through other avenues. The Vision and Learning Pilot program is targeting uninsured students in Kindergarten – 12th grade in the LPS system. These LPS students are referred by LPS school nurses, are not covered under vision insurance or Medicaid or have other financial means to afford an exam or prescription glasses. The NFCV reimburses participating Nebraska Optometric Association optometrists who see these students according to Medicaid reimbursement protocol, with a few modifications.
The importance of a good eye exam for children cannot be overstated. I recently saw a patient who was very shy and was not doing well in school. His teacher thought vision may be playing a role, but he did not have insurance and his parents did not have the money for an eye exam. Through the Vision and Learning Pilot program he was able to get an eye exam. When he got his new glasses his teachers noticed right away that he was running around and playing – he never used to run at the playground, he could not see! He was afraid of running into something. Weeks later his teacher told me his grades were improving. He was able to move to a higher-level reading group. This shows how this program can change children’s lives – not just in school but also in life. Even this child’s ability to play has been enhanced by this program.
The program was recently awarded a $5,000 grant through the American Optometric Association’s 2014 Healthy Eyes Healthy People® (HEHP) Community Grant Program. The grant is one of 17 grants made possible by the generous support of Luxottica USA.
If you know of a child who could benefit from this program, talk to their school nurse, call the NFCV office at 402-474-7716, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about the Vision and Learning program.
By Dr. Darren Wright, President
Nebraska Optometric Association
Distributed to all Nebraska daily newspapers, April 2, 2014
I’m writing on behalf of the 330 Doctors of Optometry serving in more than 80 communities across the state of Nebraska in support of LB526, a bill before the Legislature that would allow optometrists to perform several additional procedures and prescribe several additional medications that treat common conditions of the eye and eyelids.
Patients in Nebraska are not allowed the same level of care from primary care optometrists as patients in many other states.
Optometrists are the most prevalent and accessible eyecare providers in Nebraska. LB526 will reduce costs by increasing access to additional care. Less travel for appointments, less wait for appointments, fewer duplicate appointments due to referrals. Physician shortages in Nebraska’s rural areas have been widely reported. Utilizing non-M.D. providers to the fullest extent of their training is acknowledged as a remedy for these shortages.
As primary eye care providers, Doctors of Optometry are trained to examine, diagnose, treat and manage disorders that affect the eye or vision. These doctoral-level professionals are an integral part of the health care team, treating a wide range of vision problems, including many conditions with systemic and sight-threatening implications.
Nebraska’s Doctors of Optometry have four years of specialized, post-graduate, doctoral-level study on the eye and its systems, must pass a rigorous national licensing exam, and receive continuing education each year. Just as other healthcare professionals receive additional training related to new procedures, pharmaceuticals, and technology, LB 526 will assure completion of additional post-doctoral education by optometrists relative to this new authority.
For our patients, no matter where they live, LB526 will mean better access, reduced costs and more convenience for all Nebraskans. We look forward to better serving the healthcare needs of our state and welcome the opportunity for patients in Nebraska to get the same level of care from primary care optometrists that many other states already allow.
Published March 27, 2014
Compliments of Unicameral Update
LB526, introduced by Omaha Sen. Sara Howard, would expand the scope of practice for licensed optometrists in Nebraska by authorizing those who have completed the required training and demonstrated the necessary skills to:
• inject pharmaceutical agents into the eyelid for certain therapeutic purposes;
• perform minor surgical procedures on the eyelid and ocular adnexa; and
• prescribe oral steroids, oral antiglaucoma medication and immunosuppressives.
Howard said the bill would allow optometrists to inject patients for treatment of anaphylaxis, remove several narrow restrictions on prescription authority and allow them to lance benign cysts. Patients often attempt to lance such cysts at home, she said, which carries a greater risk of infection.
Many rural counties in Nebraska are not served by an ophthalmologist, Howard said, and allowing optometrists to perform a limited number of additional procedures would benefit under-served areas of the state.
“LB526 is primarily a bill about enhanced access to eye care services,” she said.
A Health and Human Services Committee amendment, adopted 25-7, clarified that qualified optometrists would be limited to the treatment of chalazions, hordeolums, sweat gland cysts or oil gland cysts of the eyelids.
The amendment also would add four hours of tested education from an accredited school of optometry to the requirements for certification in the use of pharmaceutical agents authorized under the bill.
An optometrist licensed in Nebraska would be allowed to administer injections authorized by the bill if he or she provides:
• evidence of certification in another state that is deemed satisfactory by the state board;
• evidence of passing the injection skills examination of the national licensing board for optometrists for a licensee graduating from a school of optometry after Dec. 31, 2012; or
• evidence of completion of a minimum of eight hours of transcript-quality education from an accredited school of optometry for a licensee who graduated on or before Dec. 31, 2012.
An optometrist licensed in Nebraska would be allowed to perform minor surgical procedures authorized by the bill if he or she provides:
• evidence of certification in another state that is deemed satisfactory by the board;
• evidence of competency from an accredited school of optometry that is deemed satisfactory by the board, or proof of compliance by the end of the first licensure renewal period, for a licensee graduating after Dec. 31, 2012; or
• evidence of completion of a minimum of 16 hours of transcript-quality education from an accredited school of optometry for a licensee who graduated on or before Dec. 31, 2012.
Finally, the amendment states that a licensed optometrist who performs minor surgical procedures or administers injections would be required to provide a standard of care to patients comparable to that provided by a physician licensed in Nebraska to practice medicine and surgery.
O’Neill Sen. Tyson Larson supported the bill, saying residents of his district face a wait of up to a month to see an ophthalmologist. Expanding the scope of practice for optometrists would improve access to eye care, he said, adding that optometrists would continue to refer patients to an ophthalmologist when necessary.
“LB526 gives optometrists the ability to perform simple procedures that are not controversial, not complex, and if they feel uncomfortable, they won’t do it,” Larson said.
Grand Island Sen. Mike Gloor opposed the bill, saying the state’s process for evaluating proposed scope of practice changes yielded a mixed report. While the state board of health recommended the change, he said, a technical review board and the state’s chief medical officer did not.
Senators are not clinicians, Gloor said, and should either trust the review process or change it. Otherwise, he said, health care providers of all types would be encouraged to bypass the scope of practice review process and come directly to the Legislature with their requests.
“Let’s not fall into that trap,” he said.
The bill advanced to select file on a 27-10 vote.