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Encourage Children to Spend More Time Outside to Save Their Vision

kids-playing-on-grass-612x300We live in a technology-driven world where almost everyone uses a cell phone and computer for hours daily, forcing changes to our vision, to the degree we are now facing a myopia (or nearsightedness) epidemic, according to some specialists.

Children need to be outdoors more so that they’re relaxing their eyes and not concentrating on close activities all the time, according to Kathryn Rose, head of orthoptics at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia.

In the early 1970s, about 25% of Americans were nearsighted, but some studies now show we are nearing 50% of the population. Even more alarming is that 90% of China’s teenagers are now myopic, as compared to 10-20% 60 years ago.

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a defect of the eye in which the lens focuses light from far objects slightly in front of the retina, rather than directly on it, resulting in an inability to see distant objects clearly. In severe cases, the deformation stretches and thins the inner parts of the eye, which increases the risk of retinal detachment, cataracts, glaucoma and even blindness.

Because the eye grows throughout childhood, myopia generally develops in school-age children and adolescents. About one-fifth of university-aged people in East Asia now have this extreme form of myopia, and half of them are expected to develop irreversible vision loss. Some estimates predict one third of the world’s population will be diagnosed with myopia by the end of this decade.

Some symptoms and side effects of myopia are:

  • Distant objects are blurry
  • Eye rubbing or squinting while doing near work
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Frequently holding things closer to the face to see
  • Headaches from eyestrain

It is important for everyone to have a thorough vision examination yearly. We check for disease, refractive errors such as myopia, as well as evaluate all areas of vision. The loss of distance vision can affect your ability to drive, play sports, and many other activities in your daily life.

If you are diagnosed with myopia, we offer eyeglasses, contact lenses and performance lenses to improve your distance vision. We can also provide relief of myopic symptoms, such as eyestrain and headaches, with vision therapy and colored light therapy. Vision therapy is a program of exercises and activities that train the brain and eyes to work optimally together. Syntonic Phototherapy (light therapy) can increase the field of vision as well as relax the eyes to work better together. Certain colored lights used properly can relieve the stress of headaches and eyestrain.

Vision breaks are imperative to your eyes in this ever-growing world of technology. Blink regularly and focus your eyes on a distant object every 10 minutes or so when doing near work. Walk around to take vision breaks when doing continuous near work. We encourage all of you to set the phone down and spend some time outdoors every day. These suggestions will help lessen eyestrain and headaches and give your eyes a much-needed break from continual near focusing.

However, the best thing you can do for your eyes is to have a complete developmental vision examination. If you or your child has any of the above symptoms, please call us today for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Seek emergency medical care if you experience a sudden onset of flashes of floaters or a shadow covering part of your field of vision. These are warnings signs of retinal detachment, which is a rare complication of myopia. Retinal detachment is a medical emergency, and time is critical.