Integrative Optometry: What’s That?
Lots of people can tell that my approach to the practice of optometry is different than they’ve experienced before from their eye doctor. And they’re right. Sure, at my Rocky River eye clinic, I examine your eyes, test visual acuity, and diagnose ocular conditions. Those things are essential to being an eye doctor. But there is so much more to the picture when it comes to vision health. The human body is a complex system, and the health of one aspect of that system affects the entire system.
This approach is called integrative medicine, and the approach I take in my optometry practice could be called integrative optometry. The conventional approach to medicine is that the doctor diagnoses and treats illness. Rather than simply treating illness, an integrative health provider seeks to understand all the factors contributing to your overall wellbeing, and proactively seeks to prevent and avoid illness or conditions in the first place with changes to diet, lifestyle, and other significant factors contributing to wellness.
In integrative medicine, the doctor is also a healer, and approaches your health in a more holistic way. The goal is to maintain health overall, not just see the doctor when there’s a problem. To do this, the practitioner takes into account all aspects of a person’s health and lifestyle. The commitment is to providing only science-based treatments, but we don’t uncritically reject other relevant therapies. If they’re evidence-based and can provide as good or better results than the conventional approach then these will be explored, particularly if they allow for a more natural and less invasive way to improve health.
This all means that my role as an eye doctor is also one of a healer. I want to understand the status of your health overall―body and mind―in order to best understand what factors are at play which could be negatively affecting your vision and eye health. For example, we all know that diabetes plays a significant role in contributing to serious eye conditions. But rarely, if ever, will your optometrist look for more than symptoms that a problem is indeed arising.
An Integrative Optometrist does more than diagnose problems, we work with patients to prevent them
My approach is different. I want to make sure that we are working proactively to mitigate those risk factors and improve overall wellness as a path to great vision health by improving your resilience and glycemic stability system-wide, achieved through changes in what you eat and how you live, as well as various nutritional supplements which are proven to be effective.
Let’s take another example. When a patient has the beginnings of dry eyes, I don’t just throw a hot compress or some prescription drops at the patient. Sure, those things are useful and have a role in alleviating some symptoms of dry eyes. Yet, I want to understand the environmental factors that are contributing to your problem, as well as make sure you are getting the specific omega-3-vitamin combinations which will most effectively prevent and reduce these symptoms without jumping to a pharmaceutical solution where it isn’t necessary.
Your eyes truly are a barometer of overall health, while overall health will directly affect your vision. Ensuring that my patients are living as healthy a lifestyle as possible and seeing as well as possible are two sides of the same coin. That’s what gets me so pumped to jump out of bed in the morning.