Fox 41 in the Morning at HarveyEye

When I was approached to be on “FOX in the Morning,” I jumped at the opportunity. HarveyEye was just 8 months young, and could use any and all publicity. A small research project had just come out with evidence that kindergarten eye exams are beneficial, showing that standardized testing scores have improved because of them, especially in areas of lower socioeconomic areas where preventative healthcare is not seen as a priority. As part of their back-to-school series, the news station wanted to talk about the study, and at the same time, show parents what to expect when they take their kids to see an Optometrist.

When Keith, the reporter, and the camera guy came to the office, I was a bit nervous about being put on the spot and being asked a question that I didn’t have a wonderful answer for. Luckily, the first two segments on pre-testing and different types of acuity charts went well, and then my 3 year old niece, Madeline, was due in to be the “patient” for the next two.

We tried to keep the focus on the eye exam, and I got a few words in on adapting the exam for someone so young, and polycarbonate lenses being required. However, Madeline really stole the show when she asked Keith, “Why are you using a microphone?” on her first teaser. They bonded between segments when she asked him to read her a book, and she became the center of attention for the rest of the segments. Her big finale was singing her version of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” My parents watching at home just about died laughing at her, and the news anchor in the studio commented that they wanted to watch her for the rest of the show that morning.

I love working with kids in my office. For a few minutes, I get to stop playing the role of the serious doctor, and become an entertainer. My philosophy with kids is if you can keep them entertained and focused, you can take any of the measurements you need for a complete exam. I don’t need to ask them repeatedly which lenses are clearer, I get to talk about Spongebob and show pictures of my dog while I measure their eyes. How much more fun could you have while still working?

kid-bookLet’s not forget why exams at this young age are important. Children at 3-5 years old can’t tell you if their vision is blurry or clear, because they have never seen any differently. If one eye has a higher prescription than the other and isn’t seeing well, their rapidly growing brains will learn to use the clearer-seeing eye, and will ignore the poorer-seeing eye. We also want to make sure their eyes work well together as a team – we’ll see if they are able to converge together and change focus efficiently to see up close and far away objects. And last, but not least, dilation is recommended for all children to ensure that their little eyes are healthy on the inside.

My TV debut was a great experience, and I’d love to do it again someday. Hopefully I was able to connect with some viewers and ease their anxiety about eye exams for children. I always try to make my exams fun and non-intimidating for the kids, because I have fun every day working with them, and want them to remember their eye exam as a positive experience.

I can’t count the number of times I have heard patients say to me, “I have tried no-line bifocals before and just couldn’t get used to them.”

What you might not know about no-line bifocals, or what we call “Progressive Addition Lenses” (PAL), is that there are over 100 different models and designs of progressive lenses, made by over a dozen different companies. To understand why this matters, we need to compare this to something you probably know a lot more about – shoes.

There are many different companies out there that make shoes. Most of the stores that sell shoes carry many different brands of shoes, some of them are better quality, and some are of lower quality. Some shoes are made to meet certain needs, and are better than other shoes for meeting that need.

Now read those last three sentences again, but replace the word “shoes” with “PAL.” In the same way that you wouldn’t feel comfortable in a low-quality pair of shoes, you also probably wouldn’t feel comfortable looking through a low-quality PAL.

Most optical shops don’t tell you the model or brand of PAL they are selling to you, or how those lenses are compared to others. Be careful what some chains call a “premium lens” – it may only be premium in comparison to other poor-quality lenses they have.

Whether you have had a bad experience with PAL, or are trying your first, make sure to ask a lot of questions, do some research on different types of lenses, and make sure to talk with the person in the optical shop about your needs and expectations. Some PALs have wider intermediate zones for computer use, some can fit into smaller frames, and some are made with newer computerized technology and can increase contrast at night.

With the right selection of a high-quality PAL specific to your needs, you will have a great experience and be happy in your new lenses.

Andrew M. Harvey, OD