In September of 1980, my wife and I moved to Bellingham to start my career at Binyon Vision Center. Now, 41 years later, I’m delighted to continue to see many of you from those early days, as well as so many more who I have had the pleasure of getting to know and care for.
While I will still be seeing patients, I am shortening my work week, and will be an employee rather than owner of Binyon Vision Center. My concern in the last few years has been that you will have a high quality continuum of care, and I’m pleased to let you know that my associate, Dr. Heather LeClaire will be taking over the ownership of the practice. In the midst of the challenges of the last few years, she has shown herself to be both an excellent optometrist and manager, and she is adept at handling all aspects of the business. I feel confident that Dr. LeClaire will do a great job as she leads us into the future.
While I will continue to see my patients on a part-time basis, I’m looking forward to this new season and what it brings, especially being able to spend more time with our grandkids.
We are dedicated to safe environment to provide eyecare to our patients. Here is an overview of our current COVID-19 procedures. If you have any specific questions, feel free to contact us.
We are seeing patients by appointment only for all services including repairs and adjustments. This allows us to maintain appropriate building capacity and allows for proper social distancing.
All patients and employees are required to wear a face mask while in our building. Employees have been trained in proper personal protective equipment protocol from the Washington State Department of Health.
All patients are asked to fill out a COVID prescreening questionnaire before their appointment or at arrival.
We strive to maintain a 6′ distance between people as much as possible using visual markers. Employees use face shields for some procedures.
We clean and disinfect all common surfaces and tools between use.
We are proud of the efforts our team has made to keep our office safe. Here are some comments from surveys we’ve sent to patients who have recently visited:
They are doing an excellent job making you feel safe during this pandemic!
During these odd times, I felt very comfortable visiting the office, as they took every safety precaution they possibly could to keep their patients healthy!
Thank you for doing the right thing and keeping all of us patients safe during this pandemic. Their staff take each patient’s temperature as you walk in and adhere to all social distancing/masking/sanitizing protocols.
The office follows strict Covid precautions which eased my anxiety.
If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call. Best wishes and stay well.
At the end of the year, our waitlist for appointments can get long… filled with patients wanting to use insurance benefits and medical savings dollars before they expire. We called a waitlist patient near the end of 2019 – and he was delighted an earlier appointment time came available. He came in to use up his benefits for an annual eye exam and had no specific complaints, just needed more contacts. What started as a routine exam turned into a surgical procedure at a specialist office the same afternoon. We are all very thankful the patient was able to come in sooner than his scheduled appointment.
The patient had not noticed any vision changes, flashes or floaters in his vision and had not experienced any pain but when Dr. McEathron dilated his eyes he saw a slight blood leakage on the patient’s retina. Dr. McEathron sent him directly to Bellingham Retinal Specialists for further evaluation. The same day, the ophthalmologist at the office performed a laser procedure to the patient’s eye to stop the retina hemorrhage and prevent permanent vision loss.
Optometrists can uncover asymptomatic eye problems with potential to become large problems and when they do- it’s quite memorable. Dr. LeClaire recalls a similar event to the one described above when she was practicing in Seattle. “Many people mention in the exam room they do not want to be dilated,” she reflects. “I make sure they understand the benefits of us being able to really see what’s happening in the back of their eyes.”
Routine Physical for your Eyeballs
Dr. LeClaire likes to think of an eye exam as a routine physical for your eyeballs. The doctors discuss eye health and family history to make personalized recommendations to promote long term eye health. Key to creating a great understanding of your eye health is talking about if you experience eye strain and headaches and your daily exposure to electronic devices and computer screens.
Before getting into the physical exam, the doctors will test your vision using the Snellen Chart. See this last blog post for more detail on reading 20/20 and visual acuity measurement.
Your eye movement is studied throughout the exam- how your eyes track and work together. Sometimes a patient who has 20/20 vision but is experiencing headaches, might have delayed focusing or a tracking problem contributing to eye fatigue and strain.
The doctors test your peripheral vision to look for any defects that need further attention. They will also look at your eyelids, eyelashes, tear ducts, blood vessels and iris appearance. When you have this “eyeball physical” done regularly the doctor will record observations and note any variations and the first sign of any issues that could present a long term problem are caught early!
What about the part of the eye you can’t see?
I’ve described the study of how the eyes are moving and the examination of the outside of the eye, but as you can see in the image above- there’s a lot going on under the surface. Two thirds of your eyeball lie below the skin and the best way for the doctor to take a peek at the back of the eye is through that little black hole- your pupil. When the pupil is dilated by the special drops- the doctors can get a much better picture of the back of the eye- the blood vessels and optic nerve.
No, the doctors are not just trying to torture your vision for a few hours- they look at what the back of your eye looks like and create a record of the appearance. Then year after year they will note any changes to these key parts of the eye that work to make you see.
What kind of changes might they be looking for? Well, like for the patient discussed above, blood leakage or tears in the retina can be asymptomatic but when they grow they could lead to permanent vision loss. Abnormal optic nerves could be a sign of glaucoma, which also can lead to permanent vision loss when not treated. Unusual pigmentation on the macula could be an indication of macular degeneration, another eye problem with irreversible vision loss. A brief overview of common eye conditions can be found here.
20/20 Vision for Life!
As you can see, the optometrists performing detailed eye exams do more than measure your ability to read the 20/20 line. The doctors look for any signs of issues that could cause future vision loss. When you schedule an eye exam you will definitely be reading the eye chart, but you’re also taking care of your ability to SEE the eye chart throughout your life. This year of perfect vision we urge you to make eye exams a part of your routine maintenance. Schedule the annual eyeball physical to keep 20/20 vision a reality throughout your life!
A Dutch ophthalmologist, Dr. Herman Snellen, developed the 20/20 measurement system for visual acuity in 1862. Could he even have dreamed that 158 years later optometrists all over the US would be doing a happy dance that the year 2020 is going to be their year.
What is 20/20 vision?
In the Snellen measurement system- the top number represents the distance between the person and the eye chart. In the US, this distance is 20 feet. At this distance, one of the smaller lines at the bottom of the eye chart has been declared the standard- to correspond with normal visual acuity. If you can identify the letters on this line, but none of the smaller letters on lower lines, you have 20/20 vision.
The letters get larger as the lines go toward the top of the chart and each line corresponds to worse visual acuity. The smaller letters in lines below the 20/20 line correspond to better than 20/20 visual acuity. If you can read the 20/10 line- your visual acuity is two times better than someone who can only read the 20/20 line.
The single “E” at the top of the chart represents 20/200 vision. If this is the smallest letter you can read WITH corrective lenses in front of your eyes, you are legally blind.
Why do you keep saying 20/20 visual acuity?
While we tend to say “20/20 vision” a more proper term is 20/20 visual acuity. Vision is a term that is too general to accurately describe what the 20/20 measurement denotes. Why? Well, 20/20 vision is measured statically for one- in other words while the person is not moving. Also the measurement is using high contract- black letters on white background. This measurement is useful for a relative comparison of clarity of vision in a standard situation. It is a poor indicator of a person’s ability to see colored objects, moving objects or depth perception- all qualities of one’s vision. A more comprehensive description of vision would include eye tracking ability, contrast sensitivity and focusing speed.
An optometrist measures visual acuity with an instrument called phoropter in a procedure called a refraction. You’ll remember this from the eye exam when the doctor asks which is better one or two? and moves knobs or buttons until you can read the 20/20 line. The resulting numbers represent the strength of lenses needed to help you see 20/20.
The quest for perfect vision
As discussed above, 20/20 visual acuity is a measured by eye doctors. There are even smart phone apps that can measure visual acuity. Using this reference will catch most visual disorders such as farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatism. Unfortunately certain eye conditions will prevent correction to 20/20 even with corrective lenses in glasses. These conditions include cataracts, macular degeneration and even extreme dry eyes. Often these conditions are progressive- meaning the vision degenerates more and more over time. There can be preventative measures to slow and even stop progression but in some cases the vision deterioration is irreversible. Read more information here about proactive eye care. Annual eye exams are extremely important to evaluate eye health and look for any early signs of these damaging conditions. An comprehensive eye exam is much more than seeing if you can read the 20/20 line. Every time you write “2020” let that be a reminder to visit the optometrist and congratulate them on the year of perfect vision. Click here to schedule your appointment today!
Much of the information in this blog post was gleaned from Dr. McEathron, Dr. LeClaire and the fine writing at www.allaboutvision.com.
The end of the year is a busy season and we’re here to help make sure you’ve got clarity going into the new year in more ways than one!
First order of business – our office will be open our regular office hours of Monday – Friday 8:30 – 5:30, closed for lunch 12:30 – 1:30 except for the following days: Thanksgiving and the day after, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Our office will be closed those dates.
Next – let’s talk about vision insurance and flexible spending accounts. Are you familiar with the details of your insurance plan? Many benefits expire at the end of the year- let us help you find out more details about yours!
Calendar year vision benefits
Many plans are on a calendar year cycle. This means they renew on January 1st no matter when you used them last. A common plan in our area that has this benefit is the Uniform/Regence plan. This plan is an option for employees at Western Washington University. Patients can use this benefit to their advantage by using the hardware allowance for glasses in December of 2019 and contacts or a second pair of glasses in January 2020. That means the hardware would not be available again until January 2022, but it’s a fun way to maximize your benefits if they are still available.
Flexible Spending Accounts
Some employers offer their employees to defer part of their salary to a tax-free savings account. This can be used towards medical expenses. These are “use-it-or-lose-it” plans. These plans will expire with the funds going away either at the end of the year- or in some cases on March 15th. Talk with your employers or the manager of your FSA fund to make sure you understand the balance in your account and when it might expire.
Money saved into flexible spending accounts can be used for medical expenses that are not covered by insurance- but must be medically related. In our world that means – eye exams, copays, glasses, contact lenses and prescription sunglasses.
There might be no better time to update your glasses or stock up on contact lenses!
Please give us a call to check on your vision benefits or to answer any questions on how you could maximize the money you’ve saved in your FSA account!
Also, we have a large number of frames in our “red-dot” sale section right now- all 30% off! We look forward to seeing you this year! We would love to help you see 2020 going into the year 2020!
Photos by Katheryn Moran Photography. See more of her excellent work here!
“I’ve always thought that if you have to wear glasses you should go big and choose beautiful, fun, or funky ones. You can’t hide them so why not show them off,”
She has been a fellow four-eyed friend since
the seventh grade. Her mom always made sure that she had cool glasses, so she’s
been keen on stylish specs since she was a kiddo.
“I’ve always thought that if you have to wear
glasses you should go big and choose beautiful, fun, or funky ones. You can’t
hide them so why not show them off,” she remarks.
This sentiment is reflected in Michelle’s
frames of choice at Binyon. Sporting the ever-present and spunky Anne at
Valentin or her favorite cat eye Lafont frames, Michelle can be spotted
receiving compliments all around town. With a prescription as strong as hers,
Michelle delights in the opportunity to wear contacts as well as the prospect
of corrective surgery. However, she revels in what her frames can offer her,
too. As an introvert, she has been given many opportunities to meet people she
otherwise would not have.
“I get compliments about my glasses all the
time from all different kinds of people. I’m introverted so don’t often go out
of my way to make connections with strangers. The compliments are a sweet way
to connect with a person I may not have chatted with otherwise. The compliments
also make me feel like I’ve made the right choice in the frames I’ve chosen.
Sometimes I second guess myself and then the first time someone tells me they
like my glasses I know the choice was a good one.”
Michelle is a loyal Binyonite, and we
couldn’t be happier to continue working with her. Describing her relationship
with her glasses in five words or less, Michelle states, “they make me look
Thank you for choosing us, Michelle, and you look fantastic!
Contact Lenses with Transitions new to the market. Here background on the technology and what our staff thought when they tried them on
This is no joke! Contact lenses that darken (tint) with UV exposure are available April 1st through Johnson & Johnson. Branded “Oasys with Transitions” the technology has been in development for ten years. Our manufacturer’s rep thinks photochromic (light changing) contacts are going to be standard in all contacts in the future.
Lens Availability and How it Works
The initial product launch only covers spherical powers in the two week disposable lens (not for astigmatism or multi-focal wearers… yet, next year potentially). The contacts ability to change colors depends on two things – temperature and UV exposure. The material of the contact contains a special molecule that activates at body temperature (98 degrees) and when exposed to UV light to darken the lens material. The reaction is quick- within a few minutes of UV light exposure the material gets to the darkened state and without the UV light it returns to the lighter state within a few minutes. In the lighter state- there is a residual 15% tint which is intentional. The slight tint helps to block blue light from digital devices. It also reduces overhead light glare and light from oncoming headlights when night driving.
Staff Reviews of Contacts with Transitions
Hannah- I love them! They change pretty quickly when I come inside- much quicker than my transitions lenses in my glasses.
Shelly- I won’t even put drops in my eyes and you think I’ll put those in my eyes? Nope. #teamglasses
April- my eyes are still pretty light sensitive outside- definitely not a replacement for sunglasses for me on a bright day. #teamglasses
James- Not a big fan, but I haven’t worn contacts in 13 years and they just feel weird. #teamglasses
Sarah- No thanks- no contacts for me! #teamglasses
Caitlin- I like the feel of them- they were very comfortable. I like being outside and not squinting in bright light, I liked the slight tint inside too. But they’re definitely not a replacement for sunglasses on a bright day- especially because they don’t activate in the car. On my contacts days (since I’m 90% glasses, 10% contacts) these contacts would be my choice.
Interested in more information?
We’d love to talk to you more about the new Contact Lenses with Transitions to see if they might be a good fit into your life. The next step would be to set up a contact lens exam with one of the doctors who can answer specific questions and take necessary measurements to fit these lenses. Here is information about contact lens exams for new prescriptions. Here is a link to schedule an appointment online!
Dr. Heather LeClaire has fortunately landed here in Bellingham by way of Minnesota (born and raised), Ohio (optometry school) and Seattle (because she fell in love with the PNW after visiting a friend during optometry school). Interested in leaving the big city life for the Bellingham area where she had friends, a mutual colleague connected us and she joined our team in October 2018.
The past three months have slipped by quickly during our busiest time of year while Dr. LeClaire has seen patients Tuesday and Thursday mornings and Fridays all day. A proper introduction is overdue- but here are some important things to know about Dr. LeClaire:
In her own words…
Most days you can find me… exploring our new home town and area. It is such a great combination of city and outdoors, and it is all easily accessible!
I love serving the world by… helping people see and feel better about how they look and feel in their glasses and contacts. I love to educate people about their eyes and their health.
The things I’m most passionate about in life are… friends and family, food and art.
When I’m not busy checking eyes you can find me… with my nose in a book, searching antique or thrift stores for possible treasures, hanging out with friends, and exploring Bellingham and the surrounding area
My favorite part of my job is… working with a great team of people, and meeting such a variety of people from all walks of life and with such varied interests, and being able to help them see and feel the best about their eyes and health.
It must be said too- Dr. LeClaire is a talented crafter- she created beautiful cross-stitch ornaments of each staff member’s glasses! And they are so lovely!
Dr. LeClaire is currently accepting new patients from most insurance plans. For more details please contact our office or consult our online appointment scheduling tool here!
You are invited to the Garrett Leight x Binyon Vision Center Trunk Show!
Please join us for a special opportunity to see the Garrett Leight California Optical collection in its entirety – all optical frames, all sun frames, all colors.
Garrett Leight California Optical represents a new generation of eyewear inspired by classic designs and California culture. The response at Binyon has been overwhelming since we started carrying the line in June of this year. The classically tailored frames appeal across all generations. We’ve seen a 80 year old man and a 24 year old woman select the same frame! From the family that created Oliver People- GLCO makes beautiful eyewear the right way- with high quality materials and fine craftsmanship.
Join us as we welcome Mr. Brett Cates from GLCO with the entire collection – all frames and all colors. Feel free to browse the website www.garrettleight.com to get a feel for the selection and come in November 26th between 10-4 to try any of these frames on for yourself! Don’t miss the sunglasses selection – it is amazing.
All first pair lenses purchased with GLCO frame will be 20% off. Any second pair purchase of GLCO will have lenses discounted 30% off!
When I contacted Shelly Clark about photographing her family for the latest “Glasses of Binyon” blog she responded- “Could we meet at Whatcom Falls Park? We kind of live right in the park.” I thought that might mean on the road leading into the park but as Kevin works for the Department of Fishery for Washington State- they literally live in the park. It was a joy to watch the family in their backyard and picture the kids growing up in one of Bellingham’s most beautiful parks. Kevin, Shelly, Chester and June have been patients of Dr. McEathron’s for many years and they each have unique and interesting stories about their journey with their glasses.
Let’s start with Chester.
Shelly tells me he’s worn glasses for as long as she can remember. His first eye exam was when he was four years old- with concerns of family history of nearsightedness. Shelly remembers this appointment vividly- that Dr. McEathron kindly recommended they try again the following year when Chester knew more letters. He received his first pair of glasses the next year and Shelly comments that he’s always taken very good care of his glasses- probably because he’s “blind as a bat” without them. His high astigmatism doesn’t make him a great candidate for contact lenses- but he wears glasses well and appreciates the help from the opticians to find him a great fitting pair that is stylish.
Shelly was also proactive with an early eye exam for daughter, June.
When she was 5 she sat in Mom’s lap for her first eye exam. The next few years she came in for regular checks- but Dr. McEathron found no need for glasses. As 3rd grade rolled around, some reading struggles were noted. We made some reading glasses, but Dr. McEathron also recommended a consultation for vision therapy. June now sees Dr. Bearden at Optometric Physicians Northwest to help with excessive convergence. She wears her reading glasses for close work but with the improvement she’s seeing in vision therapy, she might not need them for much longer.
Shelly recalls Kevin coming home with his first pair of glasses in 2012 and being amazed…
at what he had been missing out on because he couldn’t see! He spends a lot of time outdoors- so he tried Transitions darkening lenses but didn’t like the amount of time it took for them to change back to clear- so he invested in his first prescription sunglasses made by Maui Jim. He describes those as the ultimate treat- and necessary for his work around bodies of water to be able to see clearly through the glare.
I saved my favorite story for last!
Shelly was very nearsighted and had Lasik performed in 2010 and was glasses free for 4 years after wearing them since she was a little girl. She remembers the news that she would need glasses again as being disappointing – “It’s because I’m getting older right?” she asked Dr. McEathron. “Well, it’s because you keep having birthdays,” explained Dr. M. Shelly loves how he took her negative and turned it into a positive. She says she’s fine wearing them now and even likes them! When she lost her glasses she got the same frame in another color. This was smart because she found the lost glasses again and now has two very cute similar but different color frames!
It was a fun adventure to get to know this family better in their beautiful back yard and hear about their unique glasses experiences. A special thank you to Shelly, Kevin, Chester and June for sharing their glasses stories and to Katheryn Moran of Katheryn Moran Photography for taking this awesome family’s pictures!
BINYON VISION CENTER
411 E. Magnolia Street, Bellingham WA 98225