Is Too Much Screen Time Harming Children’s Vision?
As children spend more time tethered to screens, there is increasing concern about potential harm to their visual development. Ophthalmologists – physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care – are seeing a marked increase in children with dry eye and eye strain from too much screen time. But does digital eyestrain cause lasting damage? Should your child use reading glasses or computer glasses? As you send your kids back to school this month for more time with screens and books, Texas Vision & Laser Center and the American Academy of Ophthalmology are arming parents with the facts, so they can make informed choices about their children’s eye health.
It’s a fact that there is a world-wide epidemic of myopia, also known as nearsightedness. Since 1971, the incidence of nearsightedness in the US nearly doubled, to 42 percent. In Asia, up to 90 percent of teenagers and adults are nearsighted. Clearly, something is going on. But scientists can’t agree on exactly what.
A new study appearing in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, offers further evidence that at least part of the worldwide increase in nearsightedness has to do with near work activities; not just screens but also traditional books. And, that spending time outdoors—especially in early childhood—can slow the progression of nearsightedness. It remains unclear whether the rise in nearsightedness is due to focusing on phones all the time, or to light interacting with our circadian rhythms to influence eye growth, or none of the above.
While scientists look for a definitive answer, there is no doubt that most computer users experience digital eyestrain. Kids are no different from adults when it comes to digital eyestrain. They can experience dry eye, eye strain, headaches, and blurry vision, too. While symptoms are typically temporary, they may be frequent and persistent.
But this doesn’t mean they need a prescription for computer glasses or that they have developed an eye condition of middle-age that requires reading glasses, as some suggest. It also doesn’t mean that blue light coming from computer screens is damaging their eyes. It means they need to take more frequent breaks. This is because we don’t blink as often while using computers and other digital devices. Extended reading, writing or other intensive near work can also cause eye strain. Ophthalmologists recommend taking a 20 second break from near work every 20 minutes.
Here are 10 tips to help protect your child’s eyes from computer eyestrain:
Set a kitchen timer or a smart device timer to remind them.
Alternate reading an e-book with a real book and encourage kids to look up and out the window every two chapters.
After completing a level in a video game, look out the window for 20 seconds.
Pre-mark books with a paperclip every few chapters to remind your child to look up. On an e-book, use the “bookmark” function for the same effect.
Avoid using a computer outside or in brightly lit areas, as the glare on the screen can create strain.
Adjust the brightness and contrast of your computer screen so that it feels comfortable to you.
Use good posture when using a computer and when reading.
Encourage your child to hold digital media farther away, 18 to 24 inches is ideal.
Create a distraction that causes your child to look up every now and then.
Remind them to blink when watching a screen.
“I prefer to teach kids better habits, instead of supplying them a crutch like reading glasses to enable them to consume even more media,” said K. David Epley, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “If you run too far and your legs start hurting, you stop. Likewise, if you’ve been reading too long or watching videos too long, and your eyes start hurting, you should stop.”
To learn more ways to keep your eyes healthy, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeSmart® website.
Understanding Cataracts and Presbyopia
Inside the eye, there is a clear lens which is made of protein. Muscles inside the eye react to what we look at and adjust the shape and thickness of the lens in a way that focuses the light reflected off the image we are viewing, onto the tissue lining the inside and back of the eye (retina). From there, the optic nerve transmits the image to our brain for interpretation.
In our youth the lens of the eye is crystal clear and flexible and the muscles are able to change its shape and thickness quickly, but as we age, the protein in the lens becomes more rigid. At some point, muscles in the eye are not powerful enough to overcome the rigidity of the lens, and the lens cannot effectively focus the image onto the back of the eye. This age related process is called presbyopia. The inability of the lens to focus images onto the back of the eye is called a ‘refractive error’. The main types of refractive errors are myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), presbyopia (loss of near vision due to increasing rigidity of the lens), and astigmatism.
As we age, this refractive error (due to presbyopia) increases and often times people compensate by hold things farther and farther from their eyes in order to see or read them clearly. This is one sign that the patient is experiencing presbyopia. Another tell-tale sign of possible presbyopia is the increasing need for brighter lighting. Like many other focal imperfections, presbyopia can be less noticeable in bright light because the pupil becomes smaller and the smaller pupil helps to better focus the light that is moving through the lens. Presbyopia is a progressive condition that only gets worse with time and can only be corrected with glasses, contacts or lens based refractive surgery.
As we enter into our 50’s and 60’s, the lens of the eye (in addition to becoming more rigid), also begins to become cloudy (opaque) and these opacities (cataracts) block the passage of light through the lens. Cataract development is generally a slow and gradual process much like hair turning grey or the development of wrinkles. You can’t generally see cataracts simply by looking at someone from the outside, but the person developing them may begin to experience blurry vision, loss of night and low-light vision, change in the ability to perceive colors, double vision, sensitivity to light, halos around lights, inability to distinguish details such as contours in objects, features on faces or expressions of a person any distance away.
When cataracts interfere with a person’s ability to do the things they want and need to do, it is advised that the patient be evaluated for cataract removal surgery. Cataract surgery is the most common surgical procedure performed today. It takes about 15 minutes, is virtually painless, recovery time is minimal and initial results are virtually immediate and improve with time.
Dr. Jason Bullajian (pronounced bull-ahzh-ee-n) is an ophthalmologist, eye surgeon and founder of Texas Vision & Laser Center located in Frisco and McKinney Texas. For more information or to connect, call 972-548-2015 or visit TexasVisionAndLaser.com.
The First FDA-Approved Trifocal Intraocular Lens implanted by ophthalmologist Jason D. Bullajian, MD.
Frisco, TX, September 4, 2019 – The first intraocular lens implant that provides an exceptional combination of near, intermediate and distance vision received FDA approval August 27, 2019, and Dr. Jason D. Bullajian, founder of Texas Vision & Laser Center performed one of the first implantation of the device on a patient in the Dallas Metroplex on September 4th.
“I’ve been performing eye surgery since 2000, and this is an amazing breakthrough. In general, the human eye has a range of vision that includes, near, medium and far distances. Before last week, cataract surgery and lens replacement patients who selected a basic lens, had to choose whether the lens I implanted would correct near or far vision. Then they would wear glasses to correct the other distances. If they upgraded to a multifocal lens they could choose to have two distances corrected, but again, that usually meant wearing glasses to correct the third distance. Now, we finally have a lens implant option that can achieve the uninterrupted vision that tri-focal glasses can provide.”
The FDA approval of PanOptix was based on a pivotal study at 12 investigational sites in the U.S. With this single trifocal lens design, PanOptix patients demonstrated exceptional, uninterrupted vision. The results also showed high patient satisfaction with more than ninety-nine percent of PanOptix patients saying they would choose the same lens again.1
According to the manufacturer of the lens, Alcon, more than 4 million cataract surgeries are performed each year in the U.S., which is projected to increase by more than 16 percent by the end of 2024, and the nearsighted- (presbyopia-) correcting IOL market is expected to grow 60 percent by the end of 2024.
Bullajian continues, “The short 10-15 minute lens implant procedure has always been life changing, but the availability of the new AcrySof® IQ PanOptix® Trifocal intraocular lens is a game-changer, and I’m thrilled to be one of the first ophthalmologist in the Dallas area to be trained and perform implantation of this very promising lens.”
Jason Bullajian, MD is an ophthalmologist, eye surgeon and founder of Texas Vision & Laser Center located in Frisco and McKinney Texas. For more information or to connect, call 972-548-2015 or visit TexasVisionAndLaser.com.
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About PanOptix The AcrySof® IQ PanOptix® Trifocal IOL is a type of multifocal IOL used to focus images clearly onto the back of your eye (retina) to allow clear vision after the cataract removal. In addition, the center of the AcrySof® IQ PanOptix® Trifocal IOL allows for better near (reading) vision and intermediate (computer work) vision versus what a monofocal lens would provide.
When IS Cataract Surgery (even in the Midst of a Pandemic) an Urgent Matter?
Cataract surgery is one of the most frequently performed surgeries in the United States. It is generally a routine, out-patient procedure lasting about 10 minutes. Most of the time, cataract surgery is done solely to improve or restore vision and thereby, quality of life. Usually cataract surgery is scheduled when it is most convenient for the patient. In other words, cataracts are not (generally) something that require immediate intervention.
However, there are times when cataracts pose a real and increasing threat to the structure of the eye, not just the patient’s vision or quality of life. That is when cataracts require immediate surgery.
One such instance is called an ‘intumescent’ cataract (or ‘white cataract’). These types of cataracts not only block vision, but also build up pressure within the eye which can result in permanent damage to internal structures including rupturing the ‘capsular bag’ that holds the lens of the eye. If that happens, lens replacement is no longer an option and blindness is permanent and irreversible. Surgery on ‘intumescent’ cataracts is much more complicated and so immediate intervention is required because any delay increases intraocular pressure and thereby increases complexity of the surgery and diminishes the likelihood of an excellent outcome.
Even through the pandemic Texas Vision & Laser Center has remained committed to helping people by being open with limited hours, modified staffing, increased safety and disinfection protocols. We have also added Tele-Med appointments, which allow us to see patients remotely and treat some issues remotely.
We are committed to being here for patients that need us – whether new or established – because non-COVID emergencies happen even during a COVID-19 pandemic. Our reward is knowing that by being open we have been able to help keep numerous patients out of the Emergency Rooms, treat many with serious (some very dangerous) eye problems, and in some cases actually save / restore patient’s vision, including one patient last week with an ‘intumescent’ cataract.
If you or a loved one needs eye care or needs to know if a particular eye problem is something that can wait or be treated remotely, please don’t hesitate to call or text us at 972-548-2015. We will be happy to discuss options including helping you set up a Tele-Med appointment so you can remain safe at home while an eye doctor can see you, speak to you and advise you on your best course of action.