The Eyes Have It

By Randy Schulman, M.S, O.D., F.C.O.V.D

It has been said that the eyes are the portal to the soul. That may be but they reveal so much more. The field of integrative optometry opens up a much broader view of the eyes and our vision. An integrative optometrist takes the approach that much can be learned about the health and well being of an individual through a comprehensive vision evaluation and assessment.  

Dr. Randy Schulman practices integrative optometry in Fairfield County with locations in Trumbull, Southport and Norwalk, CT. Her approach involves a model that encompasses much more than clarity of eyesight, physical health of the eyes and refractive error (nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism). She considers the behavioral model first introduced by AM Skeffington in the 1920’s. This founder of behavioral optometry recognized that vision involved more than just eyesight and involved two parts of vision, the “what is it?” and the “where is it?” The what is it part dealt with detail and identifying objects in our world, their size, orientation and color. The where is it part looked at centering on those objects and locating where they were, their relationship to other objects and their movement. Little did he know that more than 50 years later these two streams of vision processing would be identified in the brain, the signals that came from our fovea or central focus and those signals that came from more peripheral parts of the retina. Dr. Skeffington also considered two other brain processes to be part of vision, the “where am I?” or proprioception part and the “how do I communicate?” or the speech and language part. He was describing an integrated model that included communication between different parts of the brain that addressed aspects of vision, proprioception and sensory motor information, and speech and auditory information. 

Within that framework, behavioral optometrists consider that how you see will affect how you move, how you communicate and ultimately how you function in the world. By looking at things like eye movements, focusing, eye teaming and depth perception, as well as overall visual processing such as visual auditory and visual motor coordination, the behavioral optometrist can determine how successful the individual may be at learning, sports and in the workforce. They can also recognize how flexible they will be and prescribe glasses and/or training to improve their vision. 

Going beyond the behavioral model is the integrative optometrist who looks not only at functional vision but at the total individual. Here the model expands to look at physical, chemical, mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual health all through the eyes in a comprehensive vision evaluation. The practitioner looks at not only physical health of the eyes but can see in the eyes about the total health of the body. The eye is the only place in the body where you can see living, moving blood vessels both on the conjunctiva and the retina. A view of the eye indicates if there are systemic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and circulatory problems. The iris contains a map of the entire body and using iridology, a measure of this map, the practitioner can determine if there are digestive, circulatory, liver, heart, endocrine or musculoskeletal weaknesses in the body. In great detail, the body is mapped out on the iris and both chronic and acute problems will be revealed. One can also note biochemical concerns in the eye such as a build up of toxins, high cholesterol, poor absorption, and adrenal fatigue caused by poor nutrition. There are other forms of iridology that indicate mental and emotional patterns and give an imprint of what the individual has come here to learn. Using the Rayid method, the practitioner can determine preferred learning style and certain behavioral characteristics such as rational, intellectual thinking patterns or more emotive, passionate expressions in life. Others may be more movement oriented, thinking less and needing to try things themselves. All of this can be viewed in the eye. 

An integrative practitioner will take a careful history, looking at nutrition, sleep patterns, lifestyle habits, workplace and home demands and review visual findings such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, over-focus or poor convergence (eye teaming at near). She will also look at general behavioral characteristics and thought patterns or beliefs about their environment and/or their eyes (such as I can change my prescription or no one can change their prescription). After reviewing all of the information, the doctor can make recommendations for glasses, vision enhancement training, and lifestyle modifications to optimize vision as well as total health and well being. Because vision is so critical to all that we do, it is a natural place to start the conversation on how to make improvements in life. 

The eyes are truly the window to the individual’s world and to their soul. What better place to look to learn about oneself and ways to expand their potential? A careful look at the eyes reveals the strengths and weaknesses with in the whole person and the keys to improving quality of life through a better understanding of where we are through how we see.

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For over 20 years, EyeCare Associates has been a leader and preferred provider of quality vision care products and personalized optometric services to our patients.  Our experienced doctors offer comprehensive adult and pediatric vision examinations and specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide array of visual conditions.