FSA, HRA, HSA……use your health care money by year’s end before you lose it!

There are many ways to pay for health care expenses.  Some people have special health care accounts through their employer, or a health savings account they set up on their own.  Here are some simple explanations, and how you can leverage the funds in these accounts.

  • Medical flexible spending accounts (FSA)  provide pre-tax dollars, through an employer, to pay for certain medical expenses.  A health reimbursement account (HRA) is set up through your employer to pay for certain health care related expenses as determined by your employer.  Money deposited into these accounts expire at the end of the calendar year, and doesn’t roll-over for use next year.   
  • Health savings accounts (HSA) are special pre-tax savings accounts that you can contribute to throughout the year and use for health care expenses.  Unlike FSA and HRA accounts, HSA accounts don’t expire at the end of the year, but do have limits on how much you can contribute annually.
  • Did you know that you can use many of these accounts to pay for eye care?  This can include the cost of eye examinations (including co-pays and co-insurance), prescription eyeglasses, and prescription contact lenses (including cleaning supplies).  If you’re looking for ways to use all of your money before it expires, consider a new or back-up pair of glasses, or stocking up on contact lens supplies.  Call us at Mad River Eye Care to schedule an appointment for your eye exam before the end of the year so you don’t lose any of your hard earned money.

Back-to-school Vision Care.

It’s hard to believe we are talking about back-to-school time already……it seems like our kids just got out! You’ve got lists of school supplies to acquire to make sure they are prepared for learning; but as we prepare our kiddos to hit the classroom and books again, it’s important to discuss how kids are seeing their world, and how their vision contributes to their learning.

Every child is different; this includes the way they learn. Some kids need to read information, some need to hear it, some need to teach it or experience it. For most kids, seeing is one of the most important fundamental elements in learning. In fact, teachers spend a lot of time teaching kids how to use their vision for learning. There are many ways that vision can impact learning.

1: Most of the time, when we think about vision, we think about seeing clearly. Can my child see the smart board from across the classroom…..or can she see the words in the book? Obviously, if a child can’t see clearly, he may not be able to participate fully in academic activities. Often children don’t report difficulty seeing because they aren’t aware that things should look different, and they develop ways to compensate, like sitting at the front of the class, squinting, or asking a classmate. Correcting visual clarity can help facilitate classroom involvement, but can also facilitate sports involvement. Clear vision supports safe and healthy play. Children have better and more accurate reaction times when they can see clearer.

2. Another way vision impacts learning is how efficiently we see…….believe it or not, vision, and comprehension of material are learned skills. Like walking, many children develop visual skills just by being in environments that require it. However, some children have difficulty developing accurate visual perception skills on their own. There are a number of factors that may get in the way of this development like reduced clarity of vision (see number 1), mis-coordination of the eyes (either they don’t point at the same place, or the brain can’t use both eyes simultaneously), or inability to adjust focus accurately.

Dr. Mitchell has 4 kids, and 3 of them have required very strong glasses since they were little. He knows how important it is for kids to see clear and the kind of impact vision can have on learning. Because of this, Dr. Mitchell is offering free vision screening to all school age kids as we approach the start of school in the next few weeks. A vision screening is a quick assessment that will help determine if your child may need further attention for their eyes to help in school. Dr. Mitchell will check for major vision or binocular coordination issues and will make recommendations if necessary. Regardless of insurance, there is no cost for this initial vision screening.

Make sure your children are ready to learn and call us at Mad River Eye Care today for a free vision screening. Next post, we’ll talk about screen use……..phones, computers, chrombooks and Ipads.

One Year in Mad River Valley!

Happy Anniversary! On July 9th, Mad River Eye Care will be celebrating one year in the Mad River Valley. Dr. Shannon Mitchell founded Mad River Eye Care in July of 2018 fulfilling his career goal of owning and operating his own optometry practice. Previous to Mad River Eye Care, Dr. Mitchell worked for 8 years at a larger practice in Stowe.

So why open a practice in The Valley? “I was looking for a place where eye care services were not easily accessible, and Waitsfield seemed to be central to just such an area. I wanted to provide a needed and appreciated service that no one else was providing. Opening in Mad River Valley has been a smart and fulfilling change for me.”

Dr. Mitchell partnered with Brothers Building in renovating the Robert Inverness Building, and feels lucky to have found such a prime location in Waitsfield. “Most of our patients note how comfortable and relaxed our office is. Brothers Building did an excellent job renovating the space to suite our technologically advanced capabilities while keeping it as inviting as your own living room.”

In addition to investing in the latest eye care technology, Dr. Mitchell recently added the capability of finishing glasses in the office as well, “this allows us to offer speedy and exceptional service on glasses.” Beyond glasses, Dr. Mitchell offers complete contact lens services for all types of contact lenses for any patient. Dr. Mitchell can also handle eye health needs, and provides comprehensive examinations for patients with diabetes, cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and more. He can make time to see more emergent cases as well such as eye injuries, infections, allergies, or acute vision changes.

Dr. Mitchell appreciates the support of Valley residents in his first year in business here. In recognition of the community’s support, Dr. Mitchell will be donating a portion of glasses sales in July to the Mad River Valley Community Fund.

Be sure to watch our social media for chances to win Mad River Eye Care merch/goody bags.

Faster Service On Glasses!

In house finishing:  We are pleased to announce that we now offer in-house finishing on most glasses lenses.  This means that we’ve simplified the process of purchasing glasses.  Because we will be cutting, shaping and inserting lenses right here in the office, we’ll be able to deliver high quality glasses to our patients much sooner than in the past.

So far, our glasses process has involved sending a glasses frame to our lens production laboratory.  The lab measures the frame, manufactures the lenses Dr. Mitchell prescribed, cuts the lenses, and  inserts them into the frame, then sends them back to our office.  That process on average has been taking about 10-14 days.  In some cases up to 3 or 4 weeks!  

Because we no longer need to ship the frame to the lab for most orders, we cut a lot of shipping time out of the equation.  We measure the frame specifications here, order lenses from our lab, and only the lenses ship to us when they are prepared.  When the lenses arrive, we cut and shape them with our new state-of-the-art system from Santinelli International (www.santinelli.com).  This allows us to have your glasses ready within a week, sometimes in just 1 or 2 days!  Because we are only shipping lenses one way, we are cutting down our environmental impact as well.

We partner with ZEISS (www.zeiss.com/vision-care/us/home.html ),  a leader in advancing eye care and lens technology for most of our lens products.  ZEISS lens materials are superbly crafted to offer the greatest in optical clarity, durability and protection from harmful types of light like UV and high energy blue light. 

Dr. Mitchell is excited to provide high quality in-house finishing service to our patients in the Mad River Valley, and welcomes you to purchase your next glasses here.  Give us a call, or stop in for more information!

Advancing eye care in Mad River Valley part 1.

We returned from Vision Expo East with some great new ideas and products for our office.

  • New products:

    1. We are excited to introduce Marc Jacobs designer frame line to our optical! We selected styles that we think will be appealing to the discerning eye glass wearer. We are impressed by the quality of the frames, and the forward style!

    2. We also added a new line for kids and teenagers called Swing. Swing created a special material free of artificial dyes which is also allergen free and very light weight. It is flexible and durable, and will be great for our underage population (has a lot of give, and should be break resistant!).

    3. We also added new styles of some of our favorite brands:

      1. Smith Optics– with new colors and twists on classic frame shapes and sizes, we are excited to offer Smith’s innovations in our office.

      2. Costa– we’re happy we decided to carry Costa, not only do they offer amazing products with cool styles and designs, but they have started a recycling program where we can send old lenses (from old glasses, or the demonstration lenses that come in the frames we purchase) to a recycling facility where they are made into protective eye wear like motorcycle shields and safety glasses.

      3. Shwood– Shwood is quickly becoming a favorite in our office with their unique integration of wood, abalone and shells, titatnium and wood/aluminum laminates. Shwood frames are hand-made in Oregon, and they continue to push the limits. We are excited to bring some of their new products to our office that incorporate slate, mushrooms, seashells, and flowers.

      4. Europa– Including: Scott Harris, Cote d’ azur, and Allan J. These lines maintain some of our staple fashion with edgy shapes, bold colors, and smaller sizes for petite faces. Allan Jay is new in our office, and brings a bold, modern/retro blend of style that’s daring, but not over-the-top.

We are truly excited to offer updated styles of glasses right here in the Mad River Valley! Check our blog post next week for updates on our lens production capability………….

Gettin’ Smart in NYC!

Mad River Eye Care will be closed on Thursday March 21 as we head to NYC! We’ll be attending one of the largest eye care conventions in the world….Vision Expo East. We just wanted to spend a little time discussing the benefits for us and our patients when we attend conferences like this.

  • Smarts:

    • Dr. Mitchell spent extensive time studying in school, and training to be an optometrist. He attained the doctoral level of education in optometry, and learned all the latest and greatest research and technology for eye care. Like any other tech-driven industry, eye care changes rapidly with improved technology, detailed research, and changing availability of care. To keep up with all the latest changes and innovations, Dr. Mitchell regularly attends educational conferences where he spends time in class updating his understanding of the latest clinical approaches to eye care, exploring new treatment techniques, investigating new products, and testing out new equipment and tools of the trade. Dr. Mitchell is particularly looking forward to investing in new equipment that will allow our office to produce lenses for glasses right on-site and will allow us to make glasses much quicker than our current process. At Vision Expo, Dr. Mitchell will be able to check out the latest lens production equipment……stay tuned!!

    • Ashley and Madison will be attending educational courses geared toward working in optical environments. They’ll be able to gain insight into glasses fitting, general eye health, office management, and patient care.

  • Practice innovations:

    • Lenses for glasses: As noted above, Dr. Mitchell will evaluate lens production equipment that will allow our office to create some types of lenses right in the office, and/or will allow us to speed up our production time so that our patients have their glasses quicker.

    • Glasses frames: We will be spending time visiting with some of our product vendors to make sure we have up-to-date styles and selection of glasses in our optical. We’ll be exploring new frame lines and will be increasing our inventory.

    • Contact lenses: Dr. Mitchell will be reviewing the types and brands of contact lenses he prescribes, and will be looking for innovations that can improve comfort, vision, and ease of use for our contact lens wearers.

Stay tuned to social media for updates on Vision Expo East and Mad River Eye Care!

Free vision screening over winter break!

Clear vision is important for learning. Dr. Mitchell knows first hand how un-diagnosed, and un-corrected vision problems can inhibit children’s ability to participate meaningfully in learning…..3 of his 4 kids require substantial vision correction.

Early in our educational system, children are required to see clear to be able to learn……think about learning to read, recognize letters and numbers, colors and shapes. Kindergarten through 2nd grade emphasize learning concepts that will help with more detailed learning down the road. For many children, vision develops alongside these other important milestones, however, it doesn’t always go smoothly. There are many problems with eyes and vision development that can stand in the way of learning. Dr. Mitchell is pleased to offer a free vision screening opportunity over winter break (February 25th through March 5th ) to help figure out if your children could benefit from a comprehensive eye health and vision examination, and potentially glasses or other intervention. Here are a few issues he will be looking for:

Nearsightedness (can’t see far……like looking at the white board in school).

Farsightedness (can’t see well at near, or requires extra effort to focus at near……reading, desk work).

Amblyopia (sometimes called ‘lazy eye’, one eye doesn’t develop clear vision).

Strabismus (eyes don’t align with each other…crossed, point away, one points up or down, this can impede depth perception and coordination).

Call our office to schedule your preschool through 8th grader’s free vision screening over winter break!

Give the gift of sight! Gift Cards on sale through Valentine’s Day.

For most people, vision is the most important of the senses. We experience so much of our world through vision. Vision contributes so much to our awareness of our place in the world, our balance, coordination, depth perception, and general awareness.

Everyone in the family should have regular eye examinations to maintain the greatest potential for clear vision. Dr. Mitchell uses state-of-the-art technology to ensure that you are seeing your very best…..and there is more to it that just a glasses prescription.

From now until Valentine’s Day, gift cards are 20% off! Give those you love the gift of sight!

Today’s post emphasizes some important components of a comprehensive eye health and vision examination performed by Dr. Mitchell. These are considered preliminary tests and give Dr. Mitchell a lot of information about your eyes.

  • Thorough review of you current health status :

    • Various health issues can contribute to vision difficulties. Problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disorders, autoimmune disorders like arthritis, Lupus and Sjogren’s. Dr. Mitchell needs to know about these and will discuss how they could influence your vision.

    • Medications can influence how your eyes work. Dr. Mitchell reviews your current medications for any that could be contributing to vision problems….some medications even impact the health of your eyes as a side effect.

    • Family history of medical issues: some problems have strong genetic components. Dr. Mitchell can help determine if your family history puts you at a higher risk of vision altering/threatening concerns.

  • Thorough review of your current vision correction:

    • We measure your current glasses with a lensometer to determine the prescription of your current correction. Dr. Mitchell checks your vision with these to understand how they are working for your currently.

  • Visual field test (look for the lights and click the button):

    • This takes about 2-4 minutes, and helps to identify if there are any areas of your vision that are missing or compromised….this is not only helpful information about your vision, but some patterns of visual field loss can help Dr. Mitchell to identify if a more serious underlying issue is at play.

  • Eye pressure test:

    • We use the iCare tonometer as our primary pressure testing device. This is easy to use on almost everyone (even kids and people who are really sensitive about their eyes). This test doesn’t require eye drops, or puffs of air.

    • Eye pressure is a major factor in glaucoma, and so we check it at every examination. If we need to double check, Dr. Mitchell also uses a Goldmann aplanation tonometer.

  • Autorefraction and autokeratometry:

    • These are accomplished in the ‘hot air balloon test’.

    • Autorefraction is an objective measurement of the focusing quality of your eyes, and can help give Dr. Mitchell a sneak peak at how your eyes focus. This test will identify if you have nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. Dr. Mitchell will use this as a starting point for detailed vision testing that will determine your glasses prescription.

    • Autokeratometry is a measurement of the shape of the front surface of your eye. This helps to screen for structural problems with the shape of your eyes like keratoconus. It also helps Dr. Mitchell in fitting contact lenses that are an appropriate size and shape for your eyes.

  • Optomap:

    • Dr. Mitchell offers a unique screening test called Optomap that takes a comprehensive image of the inside of your eye and allows Dr. Mitchell to see nearly all of your retina. The images can also be used to document eye health concerns with the inside of your eyes and allow for straightforward comparison at future examinations.

At Mad River Eye Care, we have the right tools, technology, and expertise to help you…..See clearer.

Vision Correction for Youngsters!

The CDC estimated in 2016 that around 30% of kids from ages 6-17 wear glasses or contact lenses. There are likely many more dealing with un-diagnosed vision issues. See prior blog posts to learn about timing for children’s eye examinations. If your child has vision issues that require correction (such as near or farsightedness, astigmatism, accommodative insufficiency, etc.) there are many options to address the issue.


Most of the time we think of kids as wearing glasses. This is a very straight-forward approach for most children, however there are pros and cons with any vision correction. Young children have difficulty caring for glasses, and often break or loose them…..then there’s some down time while they are being repaired or replaced. For this reason, we carry glasses lines that were designed to hold up for kids, and we offer a full warranty on all of our glasses. We also offer discounts for multiple pairs of glasses. Kids especially should have a back up pair, or a pair for school, and a pair for home….it’s also nice to have a couple of style options.

Some kids have difficulty adjusting to wearing glasses….it can be difficult adjusting to seeing the world differently, and having something on your face. It’s best to ease kids into wearing glasses….unless they seem comfortable with it right out of the gate.

Contact Lenses:

We are often asked how old kids should be in order to wear contact lenses. There is no hard and fast age recommendation that we would apply to all kids. They should be motivated to do it personally, and should be capable of good hygiene……for some kids that might be 7 years old, for others it might be 19 years old. Contact lens technology has come a very long way, and we have so many safe and effective options for contact lens wear. If a child is motivated, we can find an option that suits their lifestyle and needs. When should kids consider contact lenses? When they decide they don’t like wearing glasses, when they get active in sports, or even if they just want the option to not wear glasses sometimes. Whenever we fit children with contact lenses, we teach them how to put them in, take them out, and care for them. We let them try the contacts for a couple of weeks, and make any adjustments if vision changes.


Some kids need glasses for the classroom environment, and may not need to wear glasses when pursuing sporting activities. Other kids benefit from improved vision, coordination, and response time by using their best correction. As mentioned above, contact lenses are a great option for sports because they eliminate the concern for having glasses on (getting broken and injuring the child, falling off, etc), and allow children the flexibility to wear other eye wear (ski goggles, sunglasses, etc). But what if a child isn’t ready for contact lenses? We carry a variety of sports specific glasses and goggles that were designed for high energy, movement, activity, and possible collision or impact. We know that these types of sports eye wear will minimize any injury from impact, will remain in place, and even look pretty cool.

  • For swimmers, we use prescription swim goggles.

  • For skiing and snowboarding, we use prescription goggle inserts.

  • For helmet sports (hockey, baseball, football, lacrosse, skateboarding) we have options with straps that go all the way around instead of hard temples (ear pieces)…..we even have options that switch (temples for some sports, straps for others in one pair of glasses)!

It’s important for children to see clearly to be able to learn and develop normally. At Mad River Eye Care, we do all that we can to ensure your child will see their best! Dr. Mitchell is great with kids, and is comfortable seeing kids of all ages!

The aging eye…..eye exams for life!

As we collect our birthdays, a lot can happen to our bodies! Many things we used to take for granted begin to take effort or special time or accommodations. Our eyes are part of this whole process we call aging. Dr. Mitchell recommends annual eye health and vision examinations for all his patients. The American Optometric Association recommends an eye exam at least every other year through age 64, then annually thereafter. Today we’ll discuss some of the reasons frequent exams are important as we age, and what kind of changes we can expect.

Vision Changes:

  • Nearly everyone experiences vision changes in early to mid 40’s, even if they have never had vision trouble before. This begins with mild delays changing focus from near to far. Over time, we start to hold reading material and phones further and further away, or turn the light brighter. By age 55, our up close focusing ability no longer works very well. This process is called presbyopia. There are many different approaches to managing this decrease in near focusing flexibility

    • some people only wear reading glasses as needed

    • others wear bifocal or progressive lenses with distance vision through the top and reading vision in the bottom to improve flexibility looking near and far

    • some people wear contact lenses which can be designed to give flexibility for distance and near

    • Dr. Mitchell is an expert at helping to determine what approach suits you the best and when to employee some of the helpful tools we have available

Eye Health Changes:

  • As our eyes age, the risk for eye health diseases increases. Here we’ll discuss some of the most common issues, and how to watch for them.

    • Glaucoma: sometimes called the ‘sneak-thief’ of sight, glaucoma can cause slowly progressive vision loss without pain, warning, or obvious acute changes. It is related to loss of nerve tissue inside the eye, and in many people is preventable if identified and addressed early. Dr. Mitchell does three important things in each examination that help identify glaucoma:

      • Visual field screening: this checks for any areas of your vision that may be missing or compromised as a result of early glaucoma

      • Internal eye pressure test: often glaucoma is related to high pressure inside the eye, Dr. Mitchell checks this at every examination for any indication that it is higher than normal

      • Thorough examination of optic nerve tissue: direct observation of the nerve tissue can reveal if glaucoma is a problem

    • Macular Degeneration: this doesn’t often lead to complete blindness, but can cause loss of central vision which is where most of our detail and color vision takes place. Dr. Mitchell checks for early signs of macular degeneration at every examination, and discusses the risk or likelihood that you could develop macular degeneration. If you have some of these risk factors, you should be seen every year:

      • Family history of macular degeneration (especially parents or siblings)

      • History of smoking

      • Over age 65

      • Diabetes or other vascular issues like high blood pressure

      • Loss of clarity or distortion in central vision

    • Cataract: almost everyone develops cataracts, but the timing and severity vary quite a bit. Cataracts happen when the clear lens inside our eyes turn opaque and cloudy. If enough cloudiness occurs, it can be hard to see through. Most people have cataract surgery at some point, which removes the cloudiness and restores clear vision. Dr. Mitchell’s comprehensive eye health and vision examination can determine if you have cataracts, and how significant they are. Here are some symptoms to watch for if cataracts are developing.

      • Increased difficulty with night driving (too much glare from headlights)

      • Needing increased light to be able to read, even with reading glasses

      • Dampening of colors or smearing of vision

      • Difficulty seeing things you used to be able to see

Dr. Mitchell is available for comprehensive examinations, and is comfortable seeing patients of all ages. He can help you understand changes to your vision and eye health, and present solutions to help keep the ride enjoyable!

Mad River Eye Care