Getting the Most From Your Eye Doctor: A Holistic Perspective

Picture a visit to the optometrist or ophthalmologist and what do you think of? An eye chart on the wall on one side of the examining room and you in a chair on the opposite side trying to read the tiny letters on the bottom line, first with one eye then with the other.

And, if you can read the bottom line, your vision is perfect. If you can’t, you need glasses. Right?

Not necessarily!

Good vision is much more than just 20/20.

Even if your glasses or contacts give you 20/20, other deficiencies may still exist in your visual system that wouldn’t be caught during an eye test that only checked visual acuity (which line on the eye chart you can read).

These other visual problems might cause some of the following symptoms: double vision, headaches, tiredness, poor depth perception, difficulty concentrating while reading, eyestrain, burning, stinging, dry eyes, and more.

When these other deficiencies aren’t dealt with, they could eventually lead to problems with acuity. So a person could end up needing glasses (or stronger glasses) when the real causes of the problem are going uncorrected.

Using glasses that were prescribed after only a test for distance or near-point acuity could very likely lead to further visual stress. If there are other undetected visual problems that remain unaddressed, this could lead to prescriptions that get stronger and stronger, deteriorating vision and a general feeling of discomfort and fatigue. All of which could set the stage for even more serious eye problems to develop.

That’s why it is so important to get a complete and thorough examination from an eye doctor who understands the interconnectedness of all aspects of vision.

Eye doctors that are trained in a holistic understanding of vision are known as behavioral optometrists.

A behavioral optometrist believes that how you see is the result of how you have learned to use your eyes. He/she also believes that visual skills — including how clearly you can see — can be enhanced through exercise, relaxation and training. He/she has received specialized training and can give you a comprehensive examination that covers all the visual skills.

Of course, a behavioral optometrist, like a regular optometrist, can prescribe glasses and contacts. In addition, a behavioral optometrist can provide a program of training that improves overall visual functioning.

Here is a list of the vision checks and tests that a behavioral optometrist will most likely perform during the first visit:

  1. Measure distance vision with an eye chart.
  2. Determine how your eyes function at close range.
  3. Measure the teamwork between your eyes and your brain.
  4. See how smoothly your eyes move from point to point.
  5. See how smoothly and easily your eyes follow a moving target.
  6. See how easily each eye can shift focus from near to far.
  7. Screen for medical conditions like glaucoma and cataracts.

Finding A Behavioral Optometrist

The Cambridge Institute for Better Vision maintains a nationwide Select Referral List of hundreds of behavioral optometrists. For help in finding one in your area, go to:

Also, there are two professional organizations for behavioral optometrists: The College of Optometrists in Vision Development ( and the Optometric Extension Program Foundation (

However you find a behavioral optometrist, the most important element is to find one who not only agrees with the holistic eye practices of the Cambridge Institute for Better Vision, but also uses them in some way in his or her practice.

When you have the name of someone, it is perfectly reasonable to phone the doctor and ask whether he or she does the complete series of tests described above.

Some behavioral optometrists also offer training sessions to correct any underlying visual deficiencies that might be found during the examination.

Many behavioral optometrists believe, as does the Cambridge Institute, that the use of an under-corrected prescription is better for the eyes.

Instead of reading the bottom line on the eye chart, with an under-corrected prescription you’ll see one or two lines higher. This under-corrected prescription will give you enough clarity for most activities (including driving), but it will leave “room” for your brain and eyes to still work together in the process of seeing. An under-corrected prescription may also prevent you from needing stronger and stronger glasses year after year.

If you are using a vision improvement system like The Program for Better Vision, your eyes can see better and better. In this case, the prescription that was under-corrected when you first got it, will eventually become too strong as your natural eyesight gets better.

Then it’s time to see the behavioral optometrist again, but this time to get a weaker pair of glasses!

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Written by Martin Sussman

Explore Wellness in 2021