The Serious Diseases a Doctor of Optometry Can Detect

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The Serious Diseases a Doctor of Optometry Can Detect

The Serious Diseases a Doctor of Optometry Can Detect

Staying healthy throughout your life is not a simple matter. We all know the laundry list of things we must do: stay active, eat well, floss, get enough sleep, take your vitamins, see your doctor for regular checkups...the list can go on.

Let’s face’s easy to get overwhelmed by it all. 

To make it all more manageable, try to stay on track with a "team approach" in mind. If you leverage the power of teamwork, staying healthy becomes a much more do-able endeavour. Pull together a team of professionals, each with a different role to play, and think of them as your healthcare pit crew.

A solid healthcare team should include a family doctor, a dentist, a dietitian, a pharmacist, maybe a counsellor and a physiotherapist…and there’s one you may not have considered: a doctor of optometry

Don’t wear glasses, you say? Well, even if that’s the case, here are some reasons why it’s always a good idea to include an optometrist on your team:

1. A comprehensive eye exam checks much more than your vision

A number of serious health conditions can be detected by a comprehensive eye exam. You may think you’re only there to have your vision checked, but an optometrist can also detect signs of high blood pressure, diabetes, liver disease, neurologic conditions, thyroid disease, and many other health issues.

The information gleaned from a thorough exam can also help other practitioners on your team to better manage any known conditions you may already have, such as diabetes. If diabetes isn’t managed well, an eye exam may reveal signs of that, signaling a need to modify your medication or work on making diet and lifestyle changes.

2. A Doctor of Optometry performs a more thorough exam

A visit with a doctor of optometry involves more than a quick screen of your vision. A comprehensive eye exam will assess your entire visual system through a series of tests and procedures—it’s like a physical for your eyes. All eye tests are not created equally, and the fact is, this sort of comprehensive checkup is much more than your family doctor can typically do. 

As a family doctor, I often see people in my clinic with eye complaints and I frequently refer them to an optometrist for a more detailed examination. A doctor of optometry has the equipment and expertise to do a truly thorough assessment. 

3. A Doctor of Optometry works closely with other health care professionals

Optometrists play a key role on your healthcare team and they communicate closely with your family physician and other health professionals. In my family physician role, I value the reports sent to me by doctors of optometry. Together, we work to improve patient care and quality of life.

Regular eye exams are important for your whole family. Adults should have an eye exam every two years until age 65, and every year after that. Children need at least one eye exam between the ages of two and five, and yearly once they start school. Infants should have their first eye exam between six and nine months of age.

4. Keep your family healthy...even though you’re busy

Just like you, I’m busy juggling all the tasks of work, family, and personal life. But just as I take my kids to the dentist for regular checkups, I also make it a priority to go in as a family for regular eye exams. I recommend the same approach for my patients. When I see people for their annual physicals, I ask them a lot of screening questions: if they smoke, how much they drink…and, yes, when they last had an eye exam. 

You can’t do it all alone—and there’s no need to try. Not when you have a team of professionals ready to help you live your healthiest, best life!


Growing Pains: Real? Or Not Real?

When Being Dr. Mom Means Treating Your Own Kids' Pain

Growing Pains: Real? Or Not Real?

Growing Pains: Real? Or Not Real?

As a mom of two boys, I’m accustomed to dealing with my kids' various aches and pains. Between earaches and sore throats, trampoline bruises and bicycle’s always something.

So a few years ago, when my eldest son began complaining of leg pain at night—every night for days on end—and there was no specific cause, I knew the likely culprit. Growing pains.

The term “growing pains” has the sound of an old wives’ tale. It’s something the matriarchs in your family talk about, but surely, in our modern era, isn’t a real thing... or is it?

Rest assured, growing pains are a very real thing.

That said, it’s not a well-understood syndrome, and it hasn’t received much research attention. Which suggests it’s not a big deal. But for the families who have lived through it can attest, it can be a big problem. My son has never been a great sleeper but when growing pains struck, bedtime became a nightmare.

Wondering if your kid has growing pains? Desperate to know what you can do about it? Read on.

Who Gets Growing Pains?

Growing pains affect a lot of kids—between 10-20% of all children between the ages of 3 and 12 years. The peak occurrence is between ages 4-8, and it's slightly more common in girls. There also seems to be a family tendency: most children who get growing pains have a parent or sibling who also experienced the same thing. 

How Do You Know If Your Child Has Growing Pains?

Typically, growing pains show up as evening or night-time pain that lasts for at least three months. The pain is usually felt in the legs (and sometimes in the arms, too) and doesn’t localize to a particular joint. Older kids (ages 6-12 years) can sometimes describe it as a creeping sensation, a cramping, or a feeling of restless legs. Sometimes the pain is mild but growing pains can be bad enough to wake your child at night or disrupt daytime activities.

Growing pains are considered a diagnosis of exclusion—meaning, you need to rule out other things before confirming that the pain is due to growth. Seeing your family doctor or pediatrician is the right place to start. Your doctor will chat with you, ask some questions, examine your child, and may order additional tests.

What Causes Growing Pains?

We don’t know exactly why some kids get growing pains and some don’t. Children who struggle with growing pains don’t grow differently than those without growing pains. The symptoms can come and go, and many kids experience pain-free periods that last for weeks or months, before the pains come back.

Are Growing Pains Harmful?

Growing pains are not harmful. They are benign (not harmful) and usually resolve naturally within a year or two of onset, and typically before adolescence. It’s important to reassure your child that he will eventually outgrow them. 

Despite their benign nature, growing pains have the potential to affect kids and their families significantly. It can mess with sleep (your kid’s and yours) and can also interfere with daytime activities. That’s why it’s good to know there are some things you can do to help alleviate your child’s pain. 

How Can I Ease My Kid’s Growing Pains?

1. Try using massage & applying warmth

This was the main approach we took to helping my son. To help him at night, I would rub his feet and lower legs with moisturizing lotion until he fell asleep. It seemed to do the trick for him, and although it took a few minutes (sometimes many more than a few...) it usually helped us avoid using medication.

2. Practice stretching exercises

Some small studies have shown that kids who were given a stretching routine had quicker improvement of their growing pains than kids who didn’t do any stretches. Talk to your doctor or a physiotherapist to get some leg muscle stretching recommendations.

3. Don’t stop regular activities

It’s important that you not allow the pain to interfere with your kid’s usual activities and social events. Cancelling activities does not prevent growing pains, and in fact, this approach could worsen the situation by making the pain a focus for your family.

4. Oral pain relievers

If all else fails and there is significant disruption of sleep, for a limited time, you can use an over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, for a limited time. It’s not recommended to use these beyond a few days, but they can provide enough relief to help your kid sleep through the night. Keep using all the other measures above and hang in there, knowing it will eventually pass.

My son’s growing pains lasted, off and on, for several months and then resolved. My younger son hasn’t started complaining of similar pains yet—but I won’t be surprised if he does. I’ve got the lotion and our stretching handout ready. Plus, the ice packs for bruised knees and trampoline injuries...and the bandages for the bicycle wipeouts!