You may not realize it, but we are currently in the middle of a world-wide epidemic of myopia, or nearsightedness. Both children and adults are struggling with nearsightedness on a massive scale. In fact, according to Science Daily, since 1971, the incidence of nearsightedness in the US nearly doubled, to 42 percent, and this number is even higher in the continent of Asia, where up to 90 percent of teenagers and adults are nearsighted.
The cause of this epidemic is clear: our increasing dependence on technology and the growing prevalence of screens in our daily lives. As technology becomes more advanced, we become more dialed into personal tech devices, both at home, at work and beyond. And this increase in screen usage is taking a toll on our health and our vision.
But this high screen-time trend isn’t just affecting adults; it’s affecting children too. Today’s children are spending more time looking at screens on phones, computers, TVs and tablets, both at home and in the classroom as school technology becomes more advanced. As a result, there is increasing concern about potential harm to their visual development, and long-term effects on their vision and health.
According to a recent study study n the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 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. But the correlated increase in nearsightedness, as well as increased use of screens and technology is clear. The same study also provided evidence that at least part of the worldwide increase in nearsightedness has traditional work activities, including use of screens, but also reading from books. So technology or not, our increased focus on education and learning in the world (which is a great trend), may be negatively affecting our eye health
Unfortunately, since books and reading from physical materials are also causing eyestrain, this means that students and children are some of the most at-risk groups for eyestrain and nearsightedness.
So what can be done? Here are five tips for staving off the nearsightedness epidemic, and instilling eye care habits.
The advances in technology have forced much of the population, especially young adults and children indoors, and young people are historically spending less time outside than ever before. Many studies on the topic of eye health suggest spending more time outdoors, especially in early childhood, can help prime and counteract this increased screen time in later childhood and adolescence, and can slow the progression of nearsightedness.
Make time for computer breaks.
If your child, or you, are experiencing dry eye, eye strain, headaches, and blurry vision, then too much screen time may be to blame. If you notice these symptoms in yourself or your child, then take measured steps to reduce screen time, and spend more time outdoors. In addition, you and your child should make changes to your computer habits, and make time for breaks frequently – at least every 20-30 minutes.
This habit is helpful because when we are using screens, we don’t blink as often, and this can also happen we we’re doing extended reading, writing or studying that can also cause eye strain. You can encourage these habits with the use of timers, or other pre-set systems to reinforce time limits. This can also help facilitate better health habits – like encouraging stretch or activity breaks that will help with circulation.
Go to the doctor regularly.
Go see an eye doctor at least once a year to make sure you are wearing proper glasses, contacts, and other protective eye wear for your unique needs. Especially in children, eye health can change dramatically in a relatively short period of time, so it’s very important to keep regular eye doctor appointments to stay on top of changes in vision. Developing a relationship with your doctor can help you come up with a plan for your children to make sure you are heading off any big eye problems before they manifest, and staying on top of any chances as they occur.
Try blue light glasses.
On top of existing eye wear, computer glasses to help counteract blue light can also be a solution, or reevaluating your current eye health for any changes in vision. These types of glasses help to minimize potential damage from the blue light that comes from computer screens and other major technology sources. Computer glasses from a company that specializes in them, like Firmoo, can help provide some comfort and prevention for future issues due to eye strain. There are many options for glasses for you to choose from that can help ease this problem, many of which are very stylish – you may want to wear them all the time!
Try to reduce screen time when possible.
Another rule of thumb for getting your eyes healthier is just reducing screen time when you can. Our society today is hyper dialed-into our phones and mobile devices, and we spend more time using them then we need to. Use an app like Moment that measures and counts up the amount of time you spend on your phone each day, and make a concerted effort to decrease it. Chances are, you can easily cut the amount of time you’re spending on your phone each day down by 25%, if not more. Put down your phone and get outside, spend time with loved ones, and use this time to find something else that you enjoy – it will pay off in more ways than one.
While it’s not likely that our culture’s use of technology and its prevalence will decrease anytime soon, and that this nearsightedness epidemic will ever completely go away, we can take specific steps to make sure we’re taking care of our eyes. Take both preventative and reactive actions to instill healthy screen habits in your family, and you will help care for their long-term vision and eye health well into the future.