Sara Schalk, OD

What is your favorite thing about being an optometrist?

My favorite thing about being an optometrist is the one-on-one interactions with my patients, many of whom we get to know over the years.

What are your hobbies?

My hobbies are reading, playing with my kids, and outdoor activities such as camping, skiing, biking, hiking, backpacking, etc.

What’s your favorite holiday and why?

My favorite holidays are Christmas—because we usually get together with the whole family—and the Fourth of July.

Where would you love to travel to?

I want to travel everywhere! I want to go back to Greece, go to Ireland, and see more of the National Parks out West—particularly hiking the Grand Canyon.

What has been your favorite thing about working at VEA?

My favorite thing about working at VEA is our great team! I love the people I work with and knowing that we are helping people every day.

Piggy bank

Remember as a kid having a piggy bank that you tucked loose pennies and dimes into? On a really good day, there may have been a whole dollar to press through the slot. Over time, those contributions added up — and so did the ways you imagined spending them.

The same happens with your health savings or flexible spending account. Little by little your monthly contributions can build toward a tangible goal, either covering the cost or putting it within easy reach.

Is LASIK among your goals? Many of our patients have used their HSA or FSAs to finally get the vision correction they’ve dreamed of, and with the whole year still ahead, there’s no better time to start planning than January.

Consultation First

In a few instances patients aren’t good candidates for laser eye correction so we strongly recommend that you contact our office to schedule an initial consultation to ensure that you’re eligible. That said, because LASIK isn’t our only tool — there are a myriad of options — it’s rare that we can’t improve your vision. It’s advantageous for us both when together we formulate a best case plan before you begin earmarking your hard-earned dollars.

Covering the Cost

If you’ve considered LASIK or another laser eye treatment, it’s likely you already know that, because it’s discretionary, you’ll need to pay for it out of pocket.

This is where the HSA or FSA offered by your employer’s health insurance plan can help take the sting out of the final bill. Contributions to both are taken pre-tax, which means the government can’t take its usual cut, and you can save up to 20% more.

Generally, an HSA:

  • comes with health plans classified as high deductible.
  • can accrue as long as you wish; there’s no pressure to spend by year end.
  • could cover the entire cost of LASIK if you contribute long enough.

Generally, an FSA:

  • must be spent within a month of year end or you lose those dollars.
  • is spendable before all contributions have been made. In other words, if you budget to contribute $1,500 by December, but decide to have LASIK in June with only $750 of the $1,500 in your account, you can still spend the full $1,500.
  • is capped per family member. It’s $2,750 for 2021.

Because there’s much more to know about utilizing the HSA or FSA benefits that come with your work’s health insurance plan, we encourage you to discuss your options with your employer’s insurance representative. It can be confusing; however, understanding the basics could mean the difference between clear vision now and slogging through another year with eye concerns.

Let’s Get Started

Schedule your nocost, no obligation consultation today. Our friendly staff will assess your needs, explain your best options, and create a plan that fits your specific lifestyle and schedule.

You may have heard the saying, “Treat the cause, not the symptom.” In the area of dry eye, many of the treatments available today focus only on treating dry eye symptoms. This can offer temporary relief, but unless you treat the cause of your dry eye, the symptoms will flare up again, and again, and again.

Valley Eye Associates is committed to offering long-term relief from dry eye disease, and is proud to offer an exciting new treatment for dry eye called Optima IPL. IPL is short for Intense Pulsed Light, a powerful and gentle light treatment that goes beyond just treating your dry eye symptoms and works to end the cause of your dry eye.

Unlike drops or medication, IPL treatment creates a gentle heat on your skin and eyelids that works to shrink abnormal blood vessels and liquifies hardened oils around your eye. These hardened oils are one of the causes of dry eye, and by liquifying and releasing the oils, IPL treatment addresses the cause of your dry eye and can reduce your dry eye symptoms for weeks or months instead of hours.

At its core, symptoms such as abnormal blood vessels and hardened oils are indications of chronic inflammation around the eye. Drops and medications can temporarily help, but IPL works to reduce or eliminate the causes of this inflammation to provide lasting relief. Until the source of the chronic inflammation is treated, dry eye symptoms will keep coming back.

 

Reduces Inflammatory Mediators

Decreases the level of pro inflammatory mediators, progressing the inflammation.

Alleviates Abnormal Blood Vessels

Destroys the abnormal blood vessels that are perpetuating the inflammation.

“Dry eye disease affects so many people in our area, and we’ve seen Optima IPL help people find long-lasting relief from dry eye,” says Dr. Angela Rodriguez. “As we approach the winter months, dry eye can be a real issue. We want to help more people find relief from dry eye this winter and beyond.”

With the advanced technology of Optima IPL, each treatment is customized to the exact skin type and condition of each patient. It is one of the most advanced treatments available today to treat dry eye disease. If you suffer from dry eye and are interested in a long-lasting treatment, talk to the team at Valley Eye to see if Optima IPL treatment is right for you.

Young man working on a computer from home

Since the onset of COVID-19, working from home has become the new normal for many people. Individuals have rearranged their living spaces and assembled home offices to accommodate the need to be productive.

Keeping the health of your eyes in mind is an important step as you continue to optimize your home setup. Balancing the tasks of logging in to remote conferencing, working with pets at your feet, remembering to unmute, and the many nuances of living and working within the same environment can be overwhelming to juggle. We want a healthy routine for your eyes to be as easy as possible, so we’ve outlined the top ways to care for your eyes while working from home.

1. Light

Eye strain can be bothersome in environments where excessively bright lighting is present. Too much natural or artificial light can be hard on your eyes. If possible, position your computer to the side of a window to avoid a flood of natural light directly behind or in front of your workspace. Soft white LED or incandescent light bulbs will create the best artificial light for you to work under.

Be sure to consider the screen as a light source as well. The intensity of your screen brightness should match the room you are working in. Open a page with a primarily white background to test the lighting of your screen. If the screen seems to be emitting light, it’s too bright. If the screen seems dull, it’s too dark. Play around with the screen setting on your device or turn on the setting to automatically adjust the brightness based on your surroundings.

2. Position

This tip may come as a surprise, but posture can also affect eye strain. Assuming proper posture can be one of the most challenging obstacles when working from home. Chair height and monitor distance are the key factors in setting yourself up for good posture. Your feet should rest comfortably on the floor and your monitor should be placed directly in front of you about 20 to 24 inches away from your eyes. Ideally, to avoid squinting and neck strain, the center of the screen should be 10 to 15 degrees below your eyes.

 3. Exercise

We all know exercise is important and that goes for your eyes too. Healthy eyes can easily shift focus between near and far vision. Looking at a computer screen for extended periods may make it difficult for your eyes to focus at a distance. Although this is temporary, it’s a good practice to exercise your eyes to relax the muscles and reduce fatigue. Consider working the “20-20-20 Rule” into your daily routine. It’s as simple as pausing to look at an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.

Working primarily at a computer can also cause dry eye. We tend to blink less while looking at a screen. Studies have shown that people blink about one third less while working at a computer. Help avoid dry eye by blinking your eyes slowly 10 times every 20 minutes.

4. Contact & Glasses Care

It is always important to be diligent with hand washing before touching the area around your eyes. As with any contagious disease, it is not recommended to wear contacts while sick. If you aren’t currently ill, it is safe to wear contact lenses, but we encourage you to take precautions by properly washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying with a clean towel. You should also continue to follow the disinfection methods recommended by your contact lens manufacturer and eye care provider.

To avoid transferring germs to your face, it is also recommended to sanitize and wash your hands and glasses often, especially when frequently removing or adjusting reading glasses.

We know there are many things to think about and balance right now. But taking these small actions of self-care can help you protect one of your most precious assets: your vision.

Kimberly Landwehr, OD

We’re celebrating Dr. Kimberly Landwehr’s 17th anniversary at Valley Eye Associates!

What is your favorite thing about being an optometrist?

My favorite thing is my patients! I have met so many people, each with a different story. I look forward to catching up on their family and adventures every visit!

What are your hobbies?

Right now, my hobbies are my three kids! I watch a lot of basketball, baseball, and softball games. I also love going to Brewer games and crafting with my daughter.

What’s your favorite holiday and why?

My favorite holiday is Halloween. My middle child was also born on Halloween!

Where would you love to travel to?

I’d love to travel to Australia!

What has been your favorite thing about working at VEA?

I have the best co-workers! I also love that every appointment is something different, could be an exam, a surgery evaluation, a post-op, foreign body removal, contact lens fitting, the list goes on!

Valley Eye Associates staff and the Best of the Valley and Best of the Winnebago logos

At Valley Eye Associates, we are honored to be voted “Best of the Valley” and “Best of Winnebago” in the LASIK Surgery Center category for 14 years in a row. The Appleton Post Crescent and Oshkosh Northwestern publishers have hosted the contest over the past several years. We are humbled and value the confidence the community has placed in us.

“For the doctors and staff at Valley Eye Associates, it means the world to us to be able to share our expertise with our neighbors and friends who have entrusted us with their eyecare. We take the responsibility seriously. Since 1981, we have proudly served the Fox Valley and beyond with a singular focus on eye care excellence for each of our patients,” says Dr. Michael Vrabec.

We bring together state-of-the-art technology, leading doctors, and a fantastic staff to ensure you receive the best vision care available. Whether you’re interested in routine eye care to help maintain good ocular health, LASIK and other surgical options to help reduce your dependence on glasses and contact lenses, or advanced cataract treatments, Valley Eye Associates is here to ensure your vision is maintained for a lifetime.

Thank you to everyone who voted for Valley Eye Associates in this year’s “Best of the Valley” and “Best of Winnebago County” contests! We’re extremely grateful for all your support and we will continue to strive to provide the best care possible.

Woman reading book after cataract surgery

Around 3 million Americans undergo cataract surgery each year. Cataract treatment involves surgery to remove the clouded natural lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. Here are five frequently asked questions about cataracts.

1. How do I know if I have cataracts?

Cataracts can create a wide variety of vision symptoms for people, but most people suffering from cataracts experience some of the following symptoms:

    • Cloudy vision
    • Blurry vision
    • Colors that don’t appear bright or vivid
    • Trouble seeing or driving at night or in low-light environments
    • Increased sensitivity to glare
    • Frequent prescription changes in your glasses or contacts

If you are experiencing any of these vision symptoms, schedule a Cataract Examination with your eye doctor to determine if cataract surgery can improve your vision and lifestyle.

2. When is the right time to have cataract surgery?

For many people, cataracts develop slowly, over months and even years. They don’t notice how much their vision has declined until it begins affecting their daily lives in many ways. This is one of the most frustrating parts of cataracts for many people — they slowly create poor vision without people noticing the slow decline.

The best time to have cataract surgery is whenever your cataracts begin to affect your daily vision and lifestyle. Whether your cataracts are small or large, our advanced cataract surgery technology ensures you no longer need to wait or suffer from blurry, cloudy vision due to cataracts.

3. Is cataract surgery painful?

No, cataract surgery isn’t painful! Thanks to the numbing eye drops applied to the surface of the eye before the procedure, you won’t feel any pain. The drops do wear off a few hours after cataract surgery. Once this occurs, you may experience some minor discomfort that can be treated with an over the counter pain reliever.

4. What happens during cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed outpatient surgery in the United States — it is a predictable, comfortable, and precise surgery experience. During the procedure, eye numbing drops and a light sedation will be administered through IV to keep you relaxed throughout the procedure. Your surgeon will gently remove the cloudy cataract lens and replace it with an intraocular lens (IOL). With the latest advancements in cataract surgery, no stitches are required, leading to quicker recovery and more precise outcomes. Cataract surgery at Valley Eye Associates is a premium experience that will get you back to seeing clearly.

5. What’s the recovery like after cataract surgery?

After your outpatient procedure, you will return home and rest for 12-24 hours. Your eye will feel comfortable very quickly after cataract surgery, and most patients experience improvement in their vision just one to two days after cataract surgery as their eyes adapt to the new IOL. It’s very important that you use your prescribed medications and follow your doctor’s instructions after your surgery.

Most patients resume normal daily activities just two to three days after cataract surgery. Your doctor will give you detailed instructions after your surgery and will check on your recovery during your follow-up visits. After this short recovery period, you’ll be free to enjoy your new vision for a lifetime!

Valley Eye Associates, LP’s West Appleton Office (Park Place), East Appleton Office (Kensington Drive), Encircle Health Office (Capitol Drive), and Oshkosh Office (Doctors Court) are open for emergent and urgent eye care, as well as glaucoma and macular degeneration exams and follow ups, cataract exams, LASIK consults, diabetic eye exams and yearly eye health exams. Please call ahead for an appointment. In addition, all Park Place Optical locations are open to take care of your glasses and contact lens needs. No appointment is necessary at Park Place Optical.

Our top priority is the health and safety of our patients and staff. We never stop working toward that goal by implementing new multi-level cleaning programs ensuring a pristine office environment and new operational models that you will notice when you visit us (for example: masks are worn at all times by patients and staff and temperatures are taken at the door). Those experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms will be asked to go home.

Additionally, our virtual visits are up and running. Please visit our telehealth page for information on scheduling a telemedicine appointment.

Finally, please watch the video below for an important message from the Valley Eye Associates team.

Please continue to follow the CDC and state of Wisconsin COVID-19 guidelines during this time of the Badger Bounce Back. Stay safe and healthy!

– The Valley Eye Associates Team

Remember, good hygiene practices include washing your hands after touching any frequently-used item or surface, avoiding touching your face or eyes, sneezing or coughing into a tissue or the inside of your elbow, and disinfecting frequently-used items and surfaces as much as possible.

Patients using telehealth to connect with their doctor

We are all making changes to adapt to social distancing as a result of the COVID-19 virus. Some changes make things more convenient and are likely to continue even past the virus outbreak. One of these is telehealth.

What is Telehealth?

It is the ability to deliver healthcare remotely by means of telecommunications technology. We call these “virtual visits.” When it is difficult or inconvenient for you to come to our office, we can schedule a telehealth visit with one of the doctors or technicians to evaluate your condition and provide treatment options.

Telehealth Services

We can provide the following services through a virtual visit with a doctor:

  • Emergency and urgent eye care needs (vision loss, red eyes, dry eyes, painful or sore eyes, flashing lights, floaters)
  • New patient and follow-up care for cornea, lens, and retina conditions (keratoconus, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration)
  • Second opinions for patients and doctors (MDs and ODs)
  • Virtual Free VIP Consultations for vision correction (LASIK and custom lens replacement).

How to Connect to a Telehealth Call

Please try to connect five minutes prior to your appointment time in case of any issues. Here are some tips for getting the best connection for your appointment:

  1. Find a quiet, private, distraction-free space
  2. Use a phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer with a good internet connection and a webcam
  3. You will need to use Chrome, Safari, or Firefox web browsers
  4. Make sure to “allow” access to the audio and video on your device

More questions? Learn more about our telehealth program here.