Well Child Care

Preventing Visions Problems During Childhood

  • Dr. Reddy

Preventing vision problems during childhood

Imagine the smartest classmate you knew as a child. What did he or she look like? Odds are that child was wearing glasses. Is it really true that reading too much can hurt your eyes? Does playing outside make your eyes healthier? Does wearing glasses at a young age make your eyes weak? These old adages are exactly what eye care researchers are studying in recent years. And guess what? As it turns out, grandma was right.

Nearsightedness (difficulty seeing things far away), also known as Myopia, is the most common eye disorder in the world. In the United States, myopia affects about 42% of people between 12 and 54 years of age, and that percentage is increasing. There are two important things that affect the development of myopia in childhood: genetics and environment. The growth of the eye in the first two decades can be impacted by multiple things. Some of things are somewhat beyond our control such as premature birth and the impact of inheritable vision problems. However, parents can make a big impact in children’s sunlight exposure, near vs far vision focusing, and corrective lens wearing,

Two recent different studies in Australia and Singapore found that children who spent more time outdoors were protected against developing the need for glasses. In both studies, time spent outside was protective regardless of what indoor activity or time spent reading or sports participation was for these children.

Another study focused on comparing time spent doing close-up work such as school work and reading. The study showed clear evidence that increasing time spent on near work was associated with increasing risk for myopia.

Other studies have recently shown that the type of curvature of the lens for eyeglasses or contacts impacts the wearer’s tendency to worsen their vision, especially in childhood. These findings are considered groundbreaking and are expected to influence the types of lenses that eye care professionals prescribe and make for children.

What can parents do?

  • First, insist that children get more time outside. This might mean advocating for more recess time at your child’s school, enabling you child to walk to or home from school, or scheduling time to spend outside before or after school. Involvement in organized outdoor sports is another great way to ensure more time is spent outside.
  • Second, when doing homework , try to reduce the intensity of close-up work, such as taking a few minutes break every 20 minutes instead of “powering through” for an hour. Also, look at your child’s study area and try to ensure that they are not sitting at a desk or bar with a surface that is too high for them to maintain a healthy reading distance. Make sure their study area is well lit, or even better that it has good sunlight.
  • Third, be a partner in having discussions with your family’s eye care professional about what strength and kind of lenses are best for your child.
  • Lastly, ensure that your child is participating in vision screenings early and be vigilant if they have significant risk factors for vision problems such as family history or premature birth.

For more information about this topic, consider: