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How Sleep Apnea Affects The Eyes

Did you know that some eye conditions are associated with sleep apnea? According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, and Health Canada reports similar prevalence. It’s a sleep disorder where people stop breathing — often multiple times per night — while sleeping.

If you have sleep apnea: it tends to take longer for your tears to be replenished, you’re more likely to have ocular irritation, you have a higher chance of developing floppy eyelids, and you’re at increased risk for glaucoma.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

There are different types of sleep apnea. The most common one is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). During OSA, your airway becomes partially blocked due to relaxed muscles in your nose and throat. This causes apnea (the absence of breathing) or hypopnea (abnormally shallow, slow breathing). It’s twice as common in men, and is more likely to affect people with obesity, hypertension, diabetes or heart disease.

What are the common symptoms of sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much to allow normal breathing. These temporary breathing lapses cause lower-quality sleep and affect the body’s oxygen supply, which can lead to potentially serious health consequences.

While snoring is a common symptom, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Interrupted sleep can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, irritability or depression, headaches in the morning, difficulty concentrating and thinking, and a sore throat.

Which Eye Conditions Are Associated With Sleep Apnea?

Glaucoma

Glaucoma occurs when increased pressure within the eye damages the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, leading to vision loss and sometimes blindness. In some cases, it might be due to a drop in blood oxygen levels, which happens when you stop breathing. However, CPAP machines, one of the most common treatments for sleep apnea, can also cause glaucoma.

So, people with sleep apnea — even if it’s being treated — need to get their eyes checked on a regular basis for glaucoma.

Floppy Eyelid Syndrome

Floppy Eyelid Syndrome (FES) is an eye condition where a person has an unusually large and floppy upper eyelid. It can cause eye redness, irritation, discharge, or blurry vision — and over 90% of people with FES also have sleep apnea.

Non-Arteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy

Non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) is an eye condition that occurs when there is a loss of blood flow to the optic nerve. Patients typically complain of significant vision loss in one eye without any major pain. Approximately 70-80% of patients with NAION have been found to have OSA.

Retinal Vein Occlusion

Also referred to as an ‘eye stroke,’ retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is a blockage of the small veins that carry blood away from the retina. A recent study of 114 RVO patients found that sleep apnea was suspected in 74% of the patients that had previously been diagnosed with RVO.

Other Eye Health Issues Associated With Sleep Apnea

Some other ocular conditions that are more common in patients with sleep apnea include: papilledema, keratoconus, and central serous chorioretinopathy. Furthermore, in addition to glaucoma mentioned above, CPAP machines are associated with dry eye syndrome and bacterial conjunctivitis.

Talk To Your Doc

Get eye exams regularly to rule out eye disorders and prevent potential vision loss, especially if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. At Clinic for Vision PC in Albertville we encourage you to share your medical history with us so we can better diagnose and treat any eye conditions or ocular diseases you may have, and help you keep your eyes nice and healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Timothy C. Nichols O.D.

Q: What Causes Sleep Apnea?

  • A: Sleep apnea occurs when in-part or completely stop breathing when sleeping. This causes your lungs to strain harder for oxygen, and makes the brain send signals that jerk your body awake to resume proper breathing.

Q: What are the Warning Signs of Sleep Apnea?

  • A: A common sign of sleep apnea is loud snoring. Snoring that is loud enough to disturb the sleep of the patient as well as others around, even across the walls. That said, not everyone who snores suffers from obstructive sleep apnea.

Quality Frames For Prescription Eyeglasses & Computer Glasses In Albertville, Alabama. Visit Clinic For Vision PC for an eye exam and eyeglasses that match your style.

3 Benefits of Anti-Glare Coating

Glare refers to the excessive brightness caused by direct or reflected light. It can cause eye strain, digital eye strain (when using a computer, for example), halos, and headaches. Glare can also reduce visibility, making it unsafe to drive.

Anti-glare coating, also known as anti-reflective (AR) coatianti glare coatingng, is a thin layer applied to the surface of your eyeglass lenses that allows more light to pass through your lenses. By reducing the amount of glare that reflects off of your lenses, you can see more clearly and experience more comfortable vision. You can request anti-glare coating for lenses when you buy eyeglasses.

AR Coating Offers 3 Major Advantages

Better Appearance

Without an anti-glare coating on your glasses, camera flashes and bright lights can reflect off your lenses. This can hinder your appearance when speaking to people or in meetings, cause flash reflections when picture-taking, and make it difficult to find the right angle for video calls. Anti-reflective coating eliminates the harsh reflections and allows others to clearly see your eyes and face.

Reduced Digital Eye Strain

You know that tired, irritated feeling you get after staring at a digital screen for several hours? That’s digital eye strain. Anti-glare coating helps reduce digital eye strain by lowering exposure to excessive glare from digital devices and lighting.

Safe Driving at Night

The bright headlights from cars driving in the opposite direction can pose a serious danger when driving at night. These sudden glares can lead you to momentarily lose focus of the view ahead. AR coating on your prescription eyewear effectively reduces reflections from headlights at night, allowing you to enjoy a better view of the road and safer driving at night.

Let your eyes look and feel better every day with anti-glare coated lenses. Contact us to book your appointment today!

Frequently Asked Questions with Dr.Timothy C. Nichols O.D.

Q: Can you request lenses made from glass? Is glass still used for lenses?

  • A: Yes. Opticians still sometimes use glass for lenses. However, glass is not used very often because they aren’t as safe. If these glass lenses breaks, they can shatters into many pieces and can injure the eye. Glass lenses are much heavier than plastic lenses, so they can make your eyeglasses less comfortable to wear.

Q: Can a coating be added to eyeglasses to protect them from further scratches?

  • A: A protective coating can’t be added to a lens after it’s scratched. The coating is applied when the lens is manufactured and can’t be put on later.

Quality Frames For Prescription Eyeglasses & Computer Glasses In Albertville, Alabama. Visit Clinic For Vision PC for an eye exam and eyeglasses that match your style.

What You Should Know About Night Blindness

If you don’t see well while driving at night, there’s a chance you have night blindness. Night blindness, or nyctalopia, is the inability to see well at night or in dim lighting. It’s not considered an eye disease, but rather a symptom of an underlying problem.

Our eye doctor in Albertville can help diagnose, manage and treat your night blindness with specialized digital eye exams, so that you can enjoy being out and about at night again.

Here are 4 things you should know about night blindness:

Causes of Night Blindness

The inability to see well at night can be the result of a condition such as:

  • Vitamin A Deficiency — Vitamin A helps keep your cornea, the layer at the front of your eye, clear; it’s also an important component of rhodopsin, a protein that enables you to see in low light conditions. Although uncommon in North America, deficiency of this vitamin can induce night blindness.
  • CataractsA buildup of protein clouds the eye’s lens, leading to impaired vision, especially at night and in poor lighting conditions.
  • Diabetic RetinopathyDamage to the eyes’ blood vessels and nerves can result in vision loss, including difficulty seeing at night.
  • GlaucomaThis group of eye diseases is associated with pressure build-up in the eye that damages the optic nerve. Both glaucoma and the medications used to treat it can cause night blindness.
  • MyopiaAlso called nearsightedness, myopia makes distant objects appear blurry, and patients with it describe a starburst effect around lights at night.
  • KeratoconusAn irregularly shaped cornea causes blurred vision and may involve sensitivity to light and glare which tend to be worse at night.
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP)A progressive genetic eye disease which can be associated with other diseases, RP leads to night blindness and peripheral vision loss.
  • Usher SyndromeThis genetic condition causes both hearing loss and vision loss, including night blindness and RP, mentioned above.

Symptoms of Nyctalopia

Since night blindness is a symptom of some serious vision problems, it’s important to get your eyes checked regularly to ensure that everything is in good working order. Contact your eye doctor as soon as possible if you notice that you don’t see as well in dim light as you used to, such as when driving at night or when adjusting from being outdoors in the sunshine to being indoors.

Symptoms of Night Blindness Include:

  • Reduced contrast sensitivity
  • Difficulty seeing people outdoors at night
  • Difficulty seeing in places with dim lighting, like a movie theater
  • Trouble adapting to the dark while driving
  • Excessive squinting at night
  • Trouble adjusting from bright areas to darker ones

Treatments for Night Blindness

Your eye doctor will want to diagnose the cause of your night blindness in order to treat it. For example, in the rare case of vitamin A deficiency, it can be treated with vitamin supplements and vitamin-A rich foods; myopia can be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. Other conditions may require medications or surgery.

If night blindness is caused by a birth defect, Usher syndrome, or retinitis pigmentosa, low vision aids and devices can help you make the most of your remaining vision.

Prevention

While there is no proven way to prevent night blindness resulting from genetic conditions or birth defects, consuming healthy, nourishing foods and taking certain vitamin supplements may prevent or slow the onset of some eye conditions that cause night blindness.

If you experience poor vision at night or in dim lighting, we can help. Contact Clinic for Vision PC in Albertville to schedule your appointment today.

Frequently Asked Questions with Dr.Timothy C. Nichols O.D.

Q: Can you request lenses made from glass? Is glass still used for lenses?

  • A: Yes. Opticians still sometimes use glass for lenses. However, glass is not used very often because they aren’t as safe. If these glass lenses breaks, they can shatters into many pieces and can injure the eye. Glass lenses are much heavier than plastic lenses, so they can make your eyeglasses less comfortable to wear.

Q: Can a coating be added to eyeglasses to protect them from further scratches?

  • A: A protective coating can’t be added to a lens after it’s scratched. The coating is applied when the lens is manufactured and can’t be put on later.

Quality Frames For Prescription Eyeglasses & Computer Glasses In Albertville, Alabama. Visit Clinic For Vision PC for an eye exam and eyeglasses that match your style.

6 Habits That Cause Dry Eyes

Banner for Dry Eye Specialists in Albertville, AL

Our Dry Eye Specialists Explain Causes of Dry Eyes

Are you always rubbing your eyes or blinking constantly to spread more moisture across the surface? Dry eyes can be extremely irritating, even painful for some people. Inadequate lubrication may cause sore eyes, redness, an inability to wear contact lenses and overall uncomfortable vision. At our eye care clinic, our experienced, expert eye doctors will perform a thorough eye exam to diagnose Dry Eye Syndrome.

As every patient is unique, our eye exam will include questions about your personal lifestyle in order to identify what’s causing your dry eyes. Finding the cause is the best way to find an effective solution!

Depending upon the results of your eye exam, we’ll recommend a number of lifestyle changes to help alleviate the annoying symptoms caused by your dry eyes. We asked our Albertville Dry Eye Specialists and they’ve offered 6 possible culprits for Dry Eye Syndrome:

1. Extreme Weather Conditions

Whether it’s summer or winter, extreme weather can stress your eyes so that they can’t produce enough tears to keep your eyes lubricated well. In the winter, it’s helpful to wear goggles or glasses to protect your eyes from frigid temperatures and wind. This is particularly beneficial when you hit the ski slopes or lace up your ice skates. In the summer, heat can lead to dehydration, which saps the moisture from your eyes too. The best way to avoid this problem and stay comfortable is simply to drink enough!

2. A/C or Indoor Heating

Air-conditioning, fans and indoor heating are directly linked with drying out your eyes. Blowing air evaporates moisture from your eyes more quickly, and it also dries out the atmosphere inside your home or office. A humidifier is a worthwhile investment to solve this problem. In the winter, a humidifier will give you an extra bonus of keeping your sinuses moist too, which helps to relieve the symptoms of your winter cold.

3. Seasonal Allergies

Recent studies have shown a strong link between spring allergens and dry eyes. When pollen counts are highest. an increased number of patients visit our eye doctors with complaints of dry eye symptoms. During allergy season, using an air filter indoors may be the most efficient way to avoid the effects of pollen on your eyes.

4. Skin Conditions

Specific skin conditions and disorders are associated with dry eyes. Blepharitis, which refers to an inflammation of the skin along the edge of your eyelids, often leads to Dry Eye Syndrome, because the oil-producing glands are often clogged. This ruins your eyes’ ability to produce tears with a healthy composition of oil. Rosacea, an inflammatory skin condition that generally appears on the face, may also block the oil-producing glands of your eyes.

5. Environmental Effects of the Great Outdoors

While fresh, outdoor air is generally healthy for your eyes, skin and lungs, too much exposure to smoke, wind, dust, and extreme temperatures can certainly lead to eye dehydration. Global climate change has been blamed for many of these ill effects, as your tear film depends upon natural humidity to stay moist. Yet as our environments have changed (and continue to change), the amount of hydration that your eyes can obtain from the outdoor environment has been reduced. Air pollution is also detrimental to healthy eyes, damaging and drying out your tear film.

6. Low-Tear Production

Our eye doctors diagnose many cases of dry eyes that are due to a reduced tear production. Officially termed keratoconjunctivitis sicca, a decreased manufacture of tears can result from a variety of causes. To stimulate tear production, it may be helpful to up your intake of omega-3 fish oil.

Aging is a common reason for inadequate tear production, as well as certain medical disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, diabetes, thyroid conditions, scleroderma, vitamin A deficiency and Sjorgen’s syndrome. If you’ve undergone radiation treatments, your tear glands may have suffered damage. Laser eye surgery is another potential culprit, however symptoms of dry eyes due to these procedures are generally short-lived.

When your eyes are unable to keep up with healthy tear production, it’s a good idea to take a look at any medications you’re taking. Common household drugs, such as decongestants and antihistamines are known to affect the moisture level of your eyes. Other medications that could cause dry eyes include: antidepressants, hormone replacement therapy, acne drugs, medication for Parkinson’s disease, hypertension treatment and birth control.

How Do I Treat My Dry Eyes?

 

Dry Eyes and Air Travel

Jet AirplaneIt is not uncommon to experience exceedingly dry eyes after long periods of travel in the air. The temperature- and pressure-controlled cabin of an airplane creates a very dry environment that can easily take its toll on your eyes.

Fortunately, eye doctors have outlined a number of steps that a person can take to reduce the chances of experiencing these uncomfortable symptoms that present themselves as part of what is often called “travelers’ dry eye.” Below are some tips to help you avoid dry eyes when traveling:

  • Dehydration has the potential to make dry eye symptoms much worse. Be sure to have a drink on hand at all times, making sure to drink before, during and after your flight. Alcoholic beverages and caffeinated drinks such as tea or coffee may increase the chances of dehydration and those who enjoy these types of beverages in-flight should be sure to drink extra fluids to compensate.
  • Artificial tears are another important item of defense against dry eyes. Having a bottle of artificial tears with you at all times during your trip will allow you to apply them as needed. This can help out a great deal. Those with chronic dry eyes should speak to their doctor before their flight to discuss the possibility that they may need a more effective lubricant for the flight.
  • Sleeping in-flight can also dry out your eyes. If you take a nap while in the air, be sure to wear an eye mask. This will help minimize the dry air that reaches your eyes while you sleep, reducing the chances of dry eyes.
  • Contact lenses also tend to increase the chances of dry eyes, even under normal conditions. This is even more true in especially dry air of the airplane cabin. Those who wear contact lenses should consider switching to a pair of glasses during the flight to cut out this increased risk.
  • The air conditioning vent above your seat is also a source of dry air that is blown directly onto your eyes. Turning off this vent can do a great deal to prevent dry eyes.

For more information about how to save yourself the discomfort of dry eyes on your next plane trip, consult your eye doctor today.

Dry Eyes vs. Red Eyes: How To Know and What To Do About It

Dry EyeRed eye and dry eye syndrome are quite easily confused. Both conditions include itchy, red and dry-feeling eyes. A person who has dry eye syndrome will often think that their red, dry, itchy eyes are nothing more than something minor, like allergies, and live a long time with the severe comfort that comes with dry eye syndrome. He/she will find that, regardless of what measures are taken, the condition does not change significantly and an eye doctor must be consulted to bring relief. Fortunately, Dr. Timothy C. Nichols is very familiar with the the symptoms of dry eye syndrome and how to treat it. Dr. Nichols has compiled some points of essential knowledge below, to help his patients recognize the indications of this uncomfortable and painful eye condition in a more timely fashion, so that they can prevent prolonging the pain and discomfort of this extremely uncomfortable.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome is characterized by itchy, red, dry feeling eyes that do not get better unless professional medical help is obtained. Doctors generally discuss two broad causes for dry eye syndrome. Either:

  • The eyes don’t make enough tears, and the eye cannot be comfortably hydrated

OR

  • The eye produces tears which are flawed. They often lack one or more essential parts normally included in tears to allow them to properly coat and hydrate the eye.

The leading defense against either of these forms of dry eye syndrome is a type of specialty eye drops called “artificial tears.” These special eye drops combat the uncomfortable symptoms of dry eye syndrome by imitating real tears as closely as possible. In order to do this in the best way possible, there are many different formulations of artificial tears. Each formulation addresses a different underlying cause of your dry eye. Some help to to address the issues of dry eye syndrome in which tears are lacking in quantity, and others will add one or more building blocks to your tears to help them better perform their intended function.

Red Eyes

Red eyes are generally not as worrisome as dry eye syndrome and you shouldn’t worry too much about them. In most cases, red eyes are caused by allergens or foreign substances, which can cause your eyes to become irritated. Small blood vessels throughout your eyes then become inflamed and enlarged, becoming much more visible and turning your eyes a reddish hue. This is where the term “red eyes” comes from.

Many times, red eyes will heal up and return to normal without any medical attention at all. A not of caution, however: The great number of conditions that can cause dry eyes makes it very hard to know exactly what the cause may be sometimes. If your red eyes are accompanied by a high fever, headache and/or a great deal of eye pain, go to the doctor immediately. This note aside, red eyes are almost always minor and should not cause anxiety unless accompanied by these additional symptoms.

Even with a brief but comprehensive explanation such as this, it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between these two similar looking conditions. If you feel your red eyes may be something more, come see Dr. Timothy C. Nichols at the Clinic for Vision today.

Macular Degeneration and The Advantages of Genetic Testing

Macular degeneration is a potentially sight threatening eye condition affecting the small area of the retina, that is involved with both central and detail vision. This area is known as the macula. As this critical area of the retina begins to deteriorate, the associated loss of central and detail vision can make close-up work such as reading small print or street signs, very difficult or even impossible. Macular degeneration can be a heartbreaking experience, as it can sometimes make even recognizing the faces of your most beloved family members difficult, as a result of exceedingly blurry or blank spots in the center of your vision, which are characteristic of this conditions. Unfortunately, macular degeneration usually comes on slowly. This can often lead to it being completely overlooked until significant sight has already been lost. Routine eye exams, especially after the age of 40, are essential for early detection and treatment.

optometrist caucasian od bigAfter detection, your eye doctor will work hard to understand the specifics of your case and how to best treat your individual case of macular degeneration to prevent your eye sight from deteriorating drastically. Fortunately, optometrists have recently developed specialty genetic tests that can provide information about specific genetic markers that are known to contribute to sudden, rapid vision loss and deterioration of cases of mild, or dry, macular degeneration into the more severe, or wet, macular degeneration. “Dr. Timothy Nichols adds, “Our goal is not just the diagnosis of a condition such as Macular Degeneration, but more important is the rehabilitation of the eye through treatment. We work closely with local retinologists to manage and rehabilitate vision loss experienced from this condition.”

The test is designed with maximum patient comfort and convenience in mind. To this end, it is made to be as non-invasive as possible. Your eye doctor simply collects a swab sample from the inside of your cheek. The swab is then air dried and sent off to a lab for testing.

While there are no known cures for macular degeneration, an indication of high risk in your genetic testing will inform both you and your doctor of the need to create a special program to reduce risk factors that are under your control that may otherwise lead to a faster progression of vision loss. If you smoke, your doctor will recommend you stop. Your doctor may also be able to put you on specialty vision-friendly supplements and advise you on what foods you may be able to eat to reduce your risk through diet. You may also ask your eye doctor about the possibility of starting special treatments such as microcurrent stimulation and oxygen inhalation.

For more information about macular degeneration, genetic testing and treatment options, contact your eye doctor today.

Why Do We Need Glasses?

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The most well-known part of a comprehensive eye exam is the basic vision test. When you have a general vision test, one of the main conditions the eye care practitioner is checking for is a refractive error. A refractive error means there is an abnormality in the shape of the eye, changing the eye’s ability to focus light directly onto the retina.This causes blurred vision and can usually be corrected by wearing prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses and possibly, alternate treatments such as vision therapy, ortho-k, LASIK or refractive surgery such as LASIK.

 

The term, “refractive error” refers to a problem with the process of refraction that is responsible for sight. Normally, light rays that enter your eye are refracted or bent through the cornea and the lens, and ultimately converge or are focused onto a single point on the retina. From the retina, messages are sent through the optic nerve to the brain which then interprets these signals into the image that we are seeing.   

 

In order for this process to work effectively, the anatomy of the eye including the length of the eye and the curvature of the cornea and the lens must be just right to be able to focus the light onto the retina. When this is not the case, a refractive error will occur.

 

There are several different types of refractive errors, depending on which part of the eye is affected, and it is possible to have multiple refractive errors at the same time:  

 

Myopia or nearsightedness:

In myopia the length of the eyeball is too long which results in light coming to a focus in front of the retina, rather than on the retina. This allows the individual to see well when objects are close but not clearly when looking at objects at a distance.

 

Hyperopia or farsightedness:

Hyperopia is when the eyeball is shorter than normal and can result in near objects being blurry. However, people experience hyperopia differently. Sometimes distant objects are clear while other times people may experience overall blurred vision near and far or no problems at all. In children particularly, the lens may accommodate for the error allowing for clear vision but may cause fatigue and sometimes crossed eyes or strabismus. Hyperopia causes eyestrain or fatigue especially when looking at near objects for a period of time. Often people with 20/20 vision may still need glasses at their desk to relax their eyes and improve concentration.

 

Astigmatism:

Astigmatism is usually the result of an irregularly shaped cornea (although it can sometimes also be due to a misshapen lens). The cornea, which is normally round, is more football-shaped in an eye with astigmatism, resulting in multiple focus points either in front of the retina or behind it (or both). People with astigmatism usually have blurred or distorted vision to some degree at all distances, near and far.

 

Presbyopia:

Presbyopia is an age-related condition which usually begins to appear sometime after 40.  As the eye begins to age, the lens stiffens and can no longer focus clearly on objects that are close.  

 

It’s important to note that presbyopia is often confused with hyperopia, as both cause problems focusing at near distances.  However, high hyperopia can also cause blur at far distances as well, especially in dim lighting, and depth perception problems can result in motor vehicle accidents.  In these instances people with hyperopia could use glasses at any distance.

If you are having trouble seeing, it is important to have an eye exam to determine the cause of the problem and to effectively correct your vision. Even if your vision is fine, you should schedule a routine eye exam on a regular basis to ensure that your eyes are healthy and that any potential problems are caught early.

 

Upcoming Seminars at Clinic for Vision

Clinic for Vision will present two seminars of interest in early 2016. Both will be at Clinic for Vision PC, 418 Martling Road, Albertville AL 35951. Seating is limited, reservations are encouraged. Refreshments will be served. The seminars are free of charge.

Please register by phone or by email at appointments@clinicforvision.com.

macular degeneration diagram
January 26 at 6:00pm
"Macular Degeneration; Why it is Important to You" – presented by Dr. Tim Nichols.
 
Dr Nichols has 34 years of experience in practice and the diagnosis and management of macular degeneration. The seminar will discuss symptoms, signs and treatment of this disease that is newly diagnosed in over 1 million Americans ever year. Prevention, rehabilitation, and future research will also be discussed. Refreshments will be served.
 
February 2 at 6:00pm
"Low Vision Rehabilitation" – presented by Dr. Rich McCurdy and Stacy Fortney.
Low Vision is a specialty in vision care that helps people who cannot see well with conventional glasses be able to read, watch television, and do other essential day to day tasks.
 
Dr. McCurdy graduated from UAB School of Optometry in 2004 and completed a residency in Low Vision Rehabilitation at the Birmingham Veteran's Administration Hospital in 2005. Stacy Fortney is a vision rehabilitation specialist with Eschenbach Optik of America, a premier manufacturer of low vision aids. The seminar will describe the different types of low vision devices and how they are used. Hands on demonstration of devices will be available.
Refreshments will be served.