New technology aids eye care patients
By Mark Sherry
Mark Sherry photos
Dr. Gary Burkhardt’s eye care team includes (from left) Janet Zemlicka, Cheryl Hersey and Julie Pelch. At left, Pelch, a certified paraoptemetric, uses the new iVue machine on a patient.

Dr. Gary Burkhardt and his staff at Burkhardt Eyecare in Chilton have further advanced the technology available to their patients.

Dr. Burkhardt is the first eye care provider in the area to offer patients state-of-the-art spectral domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) and the iWellnessExamTM. This instrument produces high definition cross sectional images of patients’ retinas, the sensitive area of the back of the eye.

Often compared to an MRI or CT scan, SD-OCT images provide stunning details of retinal structures that are not visible with other examination techniques or tests. Dr. Burkhardt said this is important because it enables him to detect very early signs of vision threatening diseases, such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and others. When diagnosed early, these conditions are easier to treat, slowing progression and often avoiding vision loss.

“I am extremely pleased to offer this new technology to my patients,” Dr. Burkhardt said from his longtime office at 19 W. Main St. “Many people believe they should only go to the eye doctor when they experience problems with their vision. In reality, many eye problems can develop without warning and progress with no symptoms.

Finding out early

“Early on, you might not notice any change in your vision, but irreversible damage could be taking place,” he added. “This is why regular eye exams including a thorough evaluation of the retina are so important. We’re trying to pick up signs of disease before permanent damage can occur.”

Early detection of retinal abnormalities and disease may lead to earlier and safer treatments and in many cases prevent or slow the progression of vision loss, Dr. Burkhardt added.

“There’s nothing else quite like it as far as having this instrument,” he said of the iVue. The test is quite simple and pain free as well. “It’s simply a line of light going across their vision.”

Images can be viewed immediately on the laptop computer attached and sitting next to the iVue. Burkhardt Eyecare has had the equipment since last fall, and Dr. Burkhardt said it has detected things in patients who were seeing 20/20 when they came in to the office. “It catches glaucoma at an earlier stage,” he said of just one of iVue’s many advantages.

The iVue should not be confused with Optomap, another piece of equipment offered at Burkhardt Eyecare. The iWellnessExam and Optomap Retinal Exam are both noninvasive and can be performed quickly and easily as an initial first step in a routine comprehensive eye exam. These exams are often recommended annually regardless of symptoms, documenting and thereby allowing eye doctors to observe any subtle changes occurring over time.

Huge step up in technology

SD-OCT has twice the resolution and is 65 times faster than previous OCT technology. The faster speed provides extremely high resolution (down to five microns) for more accurate diagnosis of hidden eye conditions. This technological leap forward has been compared to the advantage that jet propulsion achieved over propeller-powered aviation or the difference between an old-style black and white analog TV and today’s high-definition color flat screens.

Better equipment such as iVue comes in very handy at a time when the popu-offering all the full-service and friendly one-on-one eye care assistance it has for 20 years. That includes having a wide selection of the latest styles of eyeglass frames, the ability to assist first-time or longtime users of contact lenses, the treatment of “red eyes,” glaucoma, dry eyes and the removal of foreign bodies in the eye. “We strive to be a caring, local, family, neighborhood office,” Dr. Burkhardt said.

In keeping with that helpful atmosphere, Burkhardt Eyecare currently has a Lions reader on display in its office. People who have difficulty reading due to significantly reduced or loss of vision are invited to come in and check out the unit. If they like it and think it might help them, Burkhardt Eyecare will work with

lation is experiencing a few more challenges with its eyesight. Dr. Burkhardt said he is seeing more macular degeneration in patients, but most likely because people are living longer. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in adults 55 and older and affects more than 15 million people in the U. S.

AMD is caused by deterioration of the central portion of the retina, also known as the macula which is responsible for central vision. Early symptoms of AMD may include visual distortion, lines that appear wavy, blurring of central vision, or difficulty in reading, driving or facial recognition.

Researchers have demonstrated that low macular pigment is associated with a higher risk of developing AMD. Burkhardt Eyecare employs an instrument called QuantifEye to measure macular pigment density through a simple, noninvasive exam. If low macular pigment is detected, it may be increased with dietary changes and supplements, helping to lower ones risk for macular degeneration.

Some more at risk than others

Risk factors for AMD include smoking, age, light colored skin and eyes, unprotected exposure to the sun, gender (females are more at risk), obesity and poor diet. Dr. Burkhardt said cataracts are also being seen at an earlier age. The good news is cataracts can be easily treated once they are detected but, again, that requires people to come in for annual exams. “Technology keeps changing,” Dr. Burkhardt added, “and I truly feel I owe it to my patients to continue investing in these technologies to improve the care that I am able to provide.”

Around all this new, high-tech equipment, Burkhardt Eyecare still insists on the local Lions Club to see if one of the magnifying units can be placed in that person’s home.

Burkhardt Eyecare is a member of VisionSource, a nationwide network of independent and caring eye care professionals, promoting quality eye care, unique products and personalized service. Their office is accepting new patients and most area insurances, and offer Care-Credit, a program by which people can set up monthly payments for their eye care costs if necessary.

To make an appointment at Burkhardt Eyecare or to find out more, call 849-4291; check out www.burkhardteyecare.com.;or stop in during normal business hours.