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The eye of the beholder
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The eye of the beholder

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Take a closer look into the eye of a patient, and optometrists can see all kinds of things. Much more than just declining or 20/20 vision.

They can also spot signs of other heath issues that might not otherwise be detected, according to Julie Jochum, optometrist at Optical Gallery in north Beatrice.

“We are also able to look for high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and occasionally can find cancer that can be in other parts of the body,” Jochum said.

Jochum is one of two optometrists at the Optical Gallery, which employs a total of four workers.

Optical Gallery offers complete eye coverage, including exams for glasses and contact lens fittings, while also detecting ocular diseases, such as glaucoma.

Jochum said eye exams are given to patients of all ages, though it’s recommended kids get their first exam at 3 years old.

For the most part, she said working with children is issue-free.

“Some of the kids are a little bit more concerned,” she said. “They’ve maybe been to their family practice doctor and things were a little scary. A lot of it’s just reassuring them that we try to make it fun. We look at pictures and we can use different instruments with lights to hold their interests.”

Beyond age 3, eye exams are recommended annually. Jochum said blurred vision, headaches, eye strain, double vision, loss of vision, flashes or floaters could indicate an issue and should be disclosed to an optometrist.

She added the most common diagnosis remains near- or far-sightedness, while those over 45 can see the need for bifocals or reading glasses.

Jochum has been an optometrist in Nebraska for six years and the last three at the Beatrice office.

A Beatrice native, she said her interest in the eye dates back to her middle school days.

“I grew up here in Beatrice and I always enjoyed science,” she said. “We dissected a cow’s eye in seventh grade, and the eye has just always fascinated me. It can show so many other things going on in the body and just makes such a big difference for people’s daily lives if they can see correctly.”

In her time as an optometrist, Jochum said technology has advanced, and modern retinal cameras allow for earlier problem detection.

“We’re able to take digital pictures without using any eye drops to dilate the eye,” she explained. “We’re able to have those on the computer and refer to them each year and refer to any changes. That’s especially useful in ocular disease, like glaucoma.”

Above all else, Jochum said the Optical Gallery focuses on providing patients with a personalized experience.

“Having a small staff, we really get to know the patients and families and so when we’re working with them on finding the right pair of glasses or contacts,” she said, “I feel like we’re able to do that well.”

Reach Scott Koperski at scott.koperski@beatricedailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKoperski.

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