During my first semester of optometry school, I eagerly volunteered to be a contact lens patient for a fourth-year student. I happily went in for my first free fitting (I should have known something was amiss right then) only to find out it was a fit for Ortho-K lenses. If you are unaware/naïve like I so conveniently was, Ortho- K is an emerging field in which hard contact lenses, and by lenses I mean rocks, are used to reshape your cornea while you sleep at night. Exactly, OUCH!!! After putting the lenses in, I literally refused to open my eyes. I braced the exam chair, crying like a baby, begging the student to “get these things out of my eyes right now.” I did eventually calm down and went on to wear them for a few months.
Though I chose to discontinue wearing them, Ortho-K lenses really are a good option for some patients; I was just being a weenie that day. We all remember, or are currently experiencing, that “I can heal the blind” first-year optometry student feeling. But, with learning these great powers comes great responsibility. My Ortho-K experience was one way I let my eyes take one for the team during my first year, so whether you’re a first or fourth-year, here are some quick tips from my classmates on how to protect your eyes.
Check your script: Make sure your glasses and contact lens prescriptions are correct. It sounds so simple and you may think you are good to go, but you’ll be studying more for each new class than all your undergraduate years put together. It wasn’t until optometry school that I found out that I had been over-minused for years and the correct lenses drastically reduced the number of headaches I was having. If you find out your prescription needs adjustment, take advantage of the free lenses, frames, and contact lenses your school offers! Just remember the word “free” can come with baggage so be an educated guinea pig and by all means, never take them up on it if they offer free Ortho-K. Just kidding!
Know your surroundings (and inflammatory pathways): A lot of us go off to optometry school and find ourselves in a completely new environment than where we grew up. I left what I kindly refer to as the desert out in West Texas and moved to one of the greenest, wettest places, here in Oklahoma. The new scenery was a vision until allergy season rolled around, and then I was definitely not “fine.” My eyes “went rogue,” or at least that’s how the lovely doctor put it. Learn from me; look out for early signs you might be reacting to your new surroundings and take care of your eyes before they become an actual problem.
We all remember,
or are currently experiencing,
that “I can heal the blind”
first-year optometry student feeling.
Take breaks: Learning how to perform retinoscopy makes us all feel like scared little kids to begin with. Driven by fear, my classmates and I wore our eyes out practicing “Ret” prior to the proficiency and actually got worse at it. Don’t be afraid to take a break when practicing, and I personally recommend taking the day before the proficiency off entirely. This goes for study sessions, too.
Avoid the finals week burnout: Don’t exhaust your eyes during finals week like you do your mind. Not only do we put stress on our bodies as a whole this time of year, we also put significant stress on our eyes. Some of the complaints I remember from my classmates during finals week included: blurred vision, headaches, itchy eyes, double vision, and dry eyes. One even reported having triple vision, but I’m still not sure if he was serious or not! Safeguard your eyes during finals week; maybe even consider investing in blue blocking lenses or get some extra plus power to reduce eye fatigue.
Don’t spend too much time behind the phoropter: The phoropter is like our own playground during optometry school. We love spinning those dials and we naturally don’t mind playing the patient either. Although we are elated to help our classmates master their art form, there is nothing quite like having one of your classmates make you see double for a few hours at a time. I, myself, recall unintentionally torturing a few people once we started learning the power of the prism! Be careful how much time you spend back there and try to remember the GoldenRule once you stick a classmate in your chair.
Last, but not least: Don’t let fourth-years torture you with strange contact lenses! Again, I’m just kidding!