Parents often ask us about the effects of TV, tablets and other electronics on children’s eyes. The short explanation is that it is detrimental to the eyes in a few ways but will not cause vision loss that cannot be corrected.
Myopia, or nearsightedness, has increased up to 66 percent since the 1970s.
More and more studies are being published implicating increased close work (computers, tablets, reading, etc.) as a driver for the development and progression of nearsightedness. The eye adapts to see up close effortlessly while distance vision worsens.
There is an increasing amount of literature in the past decade showing time spent outdoors to be protective over developing nearsightedness.
A study published in 2015 showed that 6-year-olds who spent an additional 40 minutes outside per day showed a lower incidence of myopia over the next three years.
Another study that investigated this correlation further was just published last month. The study found that increased UVB exposure was associated with reduced myopia, particularly in teenagers and young adults.
There was no significant correlation between serum vitamin D levels and myopia.
For children showing signs of progressive worsening of their nearsightedness, there are a couple of other theories on halting the progression. Both are thought to be related to the peripheral focus coming into the eye.
One theory with evidence of slowing nearsightedness progression is something called orthokeratology. This is a method in which the child wears a rigid gas permeable contact lens overnight.
During the night, the contact lens reshapes the cornea. This allows for correction of the nearsightedness throughout the day without glasses or contacts, but the cornea might start to revert to its original shape by late evening.
A less complex method is for the child to be fit into a multifocal soft contact lens. The multifocal provides less nearsighted correction in the periphery of the lens to relieve the focusing muscle when doing close work.
While technology has provided us with endless advancements as well as entertainment, there are a multitude of reasons to encourage your children to put down the iPad and lace up their sneakers.
Who knew fresh air could have health benefits that included protective measures against nearsightedness?
If your child is already nearsighted and rapidly worsening, ask your eye care provider whether he or she might be a good candidate for either of the above contact lenses.
Caroline Bundrick, O.D. is an optometrist practicing at Darling Eye Center, with offices in Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island.