Eyes Provide More Insight Into Health



Our eyes are said to be among the body’s most expressive features and the windows to our soul, yet most of us never think twice about them until they begin to fail us. When they do, we usually visit an eye doctor, get our eyes checked, perhaps get a prescription for glasses and then leave without thinking of returning until another problem arises.

Dr. Millicent Knight, an optometrist and owner of Evanston-based North Shore Eye Center (NSEC) since 1995, prefers to see things differently. Rather than just treating problems, she and optometrists Dr. Desiree Carillo-Owen and Dr. Kristie Charles-Barbaro, also certified health coaches, prefer to focus on prevention and wellness. Together, they have created a center that is much more than just a place to get your eyes checked.

“Many people come in when they believe their vision may have changed or they are experiencing eyestrain," says Knight. "So much of our day is spent in front of a computer or some type of handheld digital device. This [activity] places great stress and strain on our eye muscles and may contribute to some physical changes to structures in our eyes.”

NSEC uses state-of-the-art technology with a human touch to proactively diagnose and manage chronic inflammation. “One of our primary goals is to keep healthy eyes healthy!” says Knight. “If you have diabetic eye disease that is progressing, or we find hypertensive eye disease, systemically you are not controlled. We communicate our findings to the patient’s primary physician, who helps them provide care that addresses these and other changes. We also make lifestyle and nutritional recommendations to keep the patient an active participant in their own health and well-being. This type of complementary approach helps the doctors and patients to work as a team, with the principal objective of patient wellness.”

Most of the patients that visit NSEC start around their fifth birthday as part of a school’s comprehensive eye examination. “In some cases, we are already seeing signs of eye and muscle strain and headaches and vision correction associated with digital technology overuse,” Knight says. At that point, they begin giving recommendations to their young patients for good ocular hygiene.

Some of the areas people seem most concerned about are preventing macular degeneration and glaucoma. Many are seeking information on dry eye syndrome, allergy eyes, computer vision syndrome and cataracts. “They want to know what they should eat to avoid these ailments, slow their progression or if they have a genetic predisposition, preventing the onset,” adds Knight.

Dr. Harvey Echols, a health coach at the center, lectures about metabolic syndrome, and Carrillo-Owen and Barbero, in their presentation, Do You Have Dry Eyes?, give patients a better understanding of the causes and treatment options for this condition.

To encourage more people to become active participants in their overall health care, Knight recommends they visit the Integrative Eye and Wellness Center, “a beautiful relaxing space where we provide free monthly educational lectures with experts on topics in which patients have expressed interest.” The seminars address a variety of health topics, like metabolic syndrome, and allow people a place to ask questions and get answers in a non-threatening environment.

Set up as an educational and resource center for the community, Knight says the center carries pharmaceutical-grade nutritional products, vitamins, nutracueticals and informational reference books.” They can also customize vitamins for patients. Soon they will introduce cooking demonstrations, healthy food shopping tours and other health resources.

Caring about others is something that comes natural to her and what brought her to open a practice in Evanston in the first place. “I was providing volunteer eye care to the indigent in Costa Rica with a group of volunteers from Evanston when they encouraged me to consider opening a practice here,” says Knight. She did, and shortly thereafter met Dr. Leon Rondenet, a well-respected optometrist whose practice philosophies were very much aligned with hers: to treat each patient as individuals and be available to the patient. “We decided to combine our practices, renamed it North Shore Eye Center and worked together for nine years until he retired,” says Knight.

Although her patients come from all over the Chicagoland area, she’s grateful for the support she receives from Evanston and the North Shore community that has made her and her family feel welcome. “My husband, son and I enjoy living, working and being part of the community,” she says. “We participate in many interesting activities that our patients introduce us to. It’s a real honor and pleasure to be here.”


Millicent L. Knight, OD, CHC, is the owner of North Shore Eye Center and Integrative Eye and Wellness Center, located at 2914 Central St., in Evanston. For more information, call 847-864-4768 or visit NSEyeCenter.com and EyeAndWellness.com (coming soon).

Megy Karydes is a professional writer who loves to hear a good story. Find her at KarydesConsulting.com.

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