Kids with vision trouble is a common problem these days…according to the latest surveys, the problem is at its worst this year in Japan.
I have had bad eyesight (myopia) from elementary school days despite not having access to computers (and gameboys) till just before college days. So I blamed my poor eyesight on poor lighting at home, as I did a lot of reading in very dark conditions. And then maybe possibly a little too much TV. But one website contradicts these views and has this to say:
“you may have been warned that sitting too close to the TV or computer can ruin your eyes. But actually that’s wrong. You may also have heard that using a night-light (instead of bright light) to read will cause nearsightedness, but there’s no clear scientific evidence to support this idea. You can strain your eyes if you don’t have enough light when you read, but it won’t ruin your vision.So what’s the cause of many common vision problems? Often, eye shape is the culprit. Someone with perfect 20/20 vision has eyes that are basically round like a baseball. Someone who needs corrective lenses to see usually has eyes that are shaped differently.”
Whatever the cause, I sure hated (still hate) wearing glasses, ‘cos I’m sure they got in the way of sports at school and made me feel like a dwork most of my days growing up. They didn’t have any choice of nice frames in those days either. Which explains why I probably am concerned when it comes to eye care with my own kids. Besides, I have really had a first-hand and long-arm experience with all sorts of eye trouble (pardon the body parts expressions) and encounters with eye doctors. Anyway, below are precautions that I think are generally recommended for maintaining our kids’ eyesight (some are from my eyedoctor and some from the internet):
- Eat lots of fruits & veggies! Carrots, loaded with beta carotene are especially helpful in maintaining healthy eyes. We are told that we should have sufficient of Vitamin A for good eye maintenance but too much can make your eyes red as well. My eye-doctor actually insists on blueberry eye supplements.
- In Japan, eyedrop prescription is extremely common because of the high rate of pollen allergen-related allergies that cause eye tearing in kids. The use of eye drops are controversial. Some sites say using an allergen-reducing eye drop during allergy season to ‘get the red out’ and sooth itchiness may help on a limited basis, but chronic daily use can actually make the problem worse. Or that using wrong eyedrops is a no-no. But I have heard some living octagenarians who swear their fantastic eyes are due to use of eye drops every night throughout their lives. But the internet advises using eyedrops sparingly. One teenhealth website recommends “If your eyes feel dry and irritated when you use the computer, use artificial tears. Don’t use products that remove the red from your eyes, though, because they may contain a chemical that eliminates redness temporarily but actually makes your eyes look worse later.” Also read the labels of eye drops carefully; many drops cannot be used while wearing contacts.
- Eye protection in youth can help prevent loss of eyesight in later years. UV light causes long-term damage to the inner structures of the eye, so prolonged exposure to UV rays can harm your kid’s eyesight, but wearing some kind of sun protective device like hats with UV shields or sunglasses whenever you’re in the sun can help prevent future conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration which are getting really common these days. A cataract is an eye condition in which the lens of the eye becomes clouded, impairing vision. Macular (pronounced: mah-kyuh-lur) degeneration is an eye disease in which the macula, a structure within the eye that allows you to see, gradually deteriorates, leading to decreased vision or blindness. Kids ought to pick up the habit of wearing hats with UV shields (you know like those golf hats) from an early age. If your kids do sports like skiing a lot, for eg., you might want to let them wear UV protective goggles (or sunglasses in other cases) – they should be polarized lenses, NOT just darker lenses. The lenses that only make the world darker will just make your pupils dilate and don’t do a thing to stop the UV rays. I insist on this with my kids everytime but I admit I have real trouble implementing this since all my kids hate anything that is remotely restrictive like hats or scarves and such.
- Curb computer screen time. This one is recommended by every eye expert. Every doctor probably has lots of patients with chronic headaches, eye fatigue (besides a host of other problems like backache, tennis elbows) associated with excessive screen use.
- I think for kid’s failing eyesight, you will need to see Optometrist or if you really doubt the diagnosis of your Optometrist, and think there is an eye condition that needs to be fixed properly, then your ophthalmmologist [An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in examining, diagnosing, and treating eyes and eye diseases. An optometrist is not a medical doctor, but has been trained to diagnose and treat many of the same eye conditions as ophthalmologists, except for treatments involving surgery] I heard from my eye specialist that in the field of medicine, eye science or optometry is supposedly the most advanced of all fields. So if your optometrist is up-to-date (i.e. not an old old practitioner), he/she can probably diagnose your kid’s eye problems that may be fixed with glasses, contacts, or surgery. They will also check for dry eyes, problems with your retina, and even conditions of the whole body like diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Do not despair even if your kid has really terrible eyesight – Lasik will be an option usually once kids reach 18 and their eyes are fully grown and less likely to change, Some people choose to have refractive surgery to correct myopia so they don’t have to wear contacts or glasses anymore. Refractive surgery is a procedure — usually done with a laser — that reshapes the eye to change the way light enters it and forms an image, allowing a person to see better. Refractive surgery can sometimes also be done on people with farsightedness or astigmatism once their eyes have matured and stopped growing.- do some research on How to Know if Lasik Eye Surgery Is for You to correct your vision. From the recent prices, I think they are way cheaper than braces…sigh … which both my kids will need.
- But the one technique I have found recommended by any expert in the business of improving vision or eyesight where myopia is concerned is the use of 3D pictures. Each room in our home where reading is carried out has a plastic folder with pages of 3D pictures cut out from the Daily Yomiuri (Yomiuri Shimbun) so they are free. You can buy 3D picture books too. The typical advice is we give our eyes a break from reading after every 20 minutes or so, and exercise our eyes by looking at 3D pictures. Since the problem with myopia is really a problem of non-elasticity of the eye muscles due to lack of practice looking at faraway objects, looking at 3D pictures forces our eyes to readjust focus of vision thereby exercising our eye muscles.
- Another thing … I tell my kids to blink a lot if they are glued to screens a lot. Staring at a computer screen for a long time — can and will strain your eyes. That’s because most people blink about 10 times per minute. But when you stare, your blink rate can go down to two or three times per minute. The best thing you can do is to blink more! It also helps to change your focus frequently. Look at something across the room for a few moments and then go back to looking at the computer screen.
- Kids, and especially teens need know about eye hygiene and conjunctivitis which is also sometimes called pinkeye (an eye infection that can be caused by a virus, bacteria, an allergic reaction, a chemical, or an irritant, something that gets in the eye). Conjunctivitis that is caused by germs like viruses and bacteria can easily pass from person to person. Kids need to be told that after shaking hands with someone who has a bad cold and pinkeye, for instance, they could spread the infection to their own eye by touching it with their hand. Teenagers or younger girls who wear makeup need to be told not to share eye makeup (or eyedrops) with anyone else and to not touch the tip of a bottle of eye drops with their hands or eyes because that will likely contaminate it with germs.
- Picking out glasses. I used to think that the larger the glasses, the better to see with. Now I know better (remember the good old days when everyone had those huge frames?). When you pick out glasses, remember as a general rule that smaller frames will probably suit you better. The larger the frame, the more distortion you’ll have, and you may not be able to see as well.
- The scratched cornea is one of the most common eye injuries for teens. It’s a problem most often related to wearing contact lenses or playing sports. A scratched cornea is a really irritating and bothersome condition that will prevent your kid from studying properly. With a scratched cornea, your kid will feel like something is his/her eye when there really isn’t anything there. The eye may get red and irritated, produce lots of tears, and be overly sensitive to light. So be careful, you get the eyes checked because the condition may be mistaken for pollen allergies … which is common living in Japan. Scratched corneas will heal after a week or two with the properly prescribed medicated eye drops. But you must make sure your teens leave off their contact lenses.
- Finally, if our teens begin to wear contact lens, please ensure they are thoroughly briefed on eye hygiene and on proper handling of contact lens. (If I had not-too-responsible-type-of-kids, I would check on them) That is one area that poses the greatest chances of our kids losing their eyesight through careless hygiene.