Microprism lenses help those suffering eye misalignment, which can cause numerous symptoms of Binocular Vision Dysfunction.
By Ed Nakfoor
The checklist is lengthy: headaches, nausea, panic attacks, light sensitivity and difficulty balancing, among other symptoms. The tests are inconclusive. The answer is always the same: “It’s all in your head.”
Frustrated, some people go on for years, seeing their health deteriorate, looking for relief that never comes. But they, and their doctors, might be looking in the wrong place.
Those symptoms could be signs of Binocular Vision Dysfunction (BVD), a difficult-to-diagnose condition where the image one eye sees is slightly misaligned from the other. The body, then, corrects this misalignment by overusing and severely straining the eye muscles. Over time, this strain causes symptoms of BVD, most of which are not traditionally thought to be associated with eye health.
For Dr. Debby Feinberg, O.D., correcting BVD has been her mission since founding Bloomfield Hills-based Vision Specialists of Michigan 15 years ago.
“Headaches, anxiety, uncoordinated movements when running or walking, motion sickness … all are potential symptoms of vision misalignment and only when they are considered as a cluster will we find vision misalignment is the culprit,” Feinberg said.
Because BVD affects at least 10 percent of all adults, it’s critical to test for even small amounts of misalignment in those suffering from chronic headaches, anxiety and discoordination.
“In the past, we’d only check each eye for its visual acuity. What we’re now doing additionally is checking to see how the eyes work together. This is called binocular vision. And any amount of misalignment, even the slightest, can lead to Binocular Vision Dysfunction,” she explained.
Feinberg began diagnosing and treating BVD in 1995. In the years since, she and her colleagues have treated more than 10,000 patients, who experience, on average, an 80 percent reduction in symptoms by prescribing microprism lenses. These lenses realign the images to the eyes, rather than having the eyes strain to achieve realignment.
“Our patients are, quite literally, speechless when we give them their new lenses,” she added. “They feel better and are better able to concentrate and become more productive at work. ‘If only I came to you first,’ they often say.”
That’s exactly how Brandon Klein feels. The 25-year-old West Bloomfield resident believes the trouble started as early as age 5. “I remember feeling anxious and worried all of the time,” he said.
“In my teens, the problems became more debilitating. I suffered chronic tension headaches and had panic attacks when I drove, especially on the freeway.”
Klein said he was always anxious but couldn’t pinpoint a reason why, and often clenched his teeth and tensed his shoulders.
He sought help from a psychologist and often charted driving routes to avoid highways. Still, though, the problems lingered until he found his way to Vision Specialists. Today, wearing his aligning lenses, Klein is not only an avid reader, but he also reads with more confidence and notices his eyes no longer get tired from reading. And he doesn’t feel any anxiety when he gets behind the wheel of his car. He even noticed his hearing improved.
“My only regret is not associating my problems with my vision earlier,” said Klein, a meditation teacher who also works with The Well, a local Jewish outreach program. “It would have saved me so much grief.”
BVD, however, is an equal opportunity condition in that it also affects children.
Avi Dworkin, 10, of Oak Park started having trouble in school more than a year ago. Specifically, he couldn’t read the board and struggled during math lessons to distinguish between numbers. His grandmother noted a clumsy gait when they would walk together.
Children suffering from BVD also experience a range of symptoms that can include motion sickness, tilting their heads to one side, light sensitivity and skipping lines when reading.
“We’d been to his pediatrician, but she couldn’t give us an answer. I’d been a patient of Dr. Feinberg’s and thought she might be able to help Avi,” said Cindy, Avi’s grandmother.
Cindy’s suspicions were correct — Avi did have BVD and “almost immediately after he started wearing his new lenses, he became like a new child, eager to get to school. His grades improved and his penmanship is better.”