Kids say the darndest things, but sometimes they can ask some pretty legitimate questions about their eyes and eye health. That’s the case for a series of videos put up on the National Eye Institute’s channel:
The series entitled “Ask a Scientist” does just that. Kids ask a doctor about various concerns they have regarding their eyes, vision conditions and more. In a world where so much information is available and so much of it contradicts each other, it’s sometimes hard to tell what’s true and what’s false.
That’s where Dr. Emily Chew comes in. In the video, “Ask a Scientist: Eye Myths and Facts,” Dr. Chew answers children’s pressing true of false questions about their eyes.
True or False: looking at my phone, TV, or computer everyday can hurt my eyes.
Dr. Chew’s response: false.
According to Dr. Chew, looking at a screen every day will have no long term effects on your eyes. She goes on to explain that looking at screens may cause short term pain such as mild headaches and eye discomfort.
What Dr. Chew is describing here is symptoms of digital eye strain, sometimes called Computer Vision Syndrome. This is an eye condition that has long been associated with office workers who spend day after day in front of a computer screen. But as access to screens becomes easier with smartphones and tablets, digital eye strain is beginning to affect children too.
According to The Vision Council, 65 percent of teens and children spend two or more hours on a digital device. That much screen use can put a lot of strain on your children’s eyes.
Though digital eye strain may not have any long term effects on our eyes, it can affect our day to day lives. For children, eye discomfort and headaches will impede them from focusing in school.
Digital eye strain can also sometimes cause neck and back pain which can affect your children in the long run. This will cause them physical pain and make them unable to participate in sporting activities and all the other activities children love most!
A good way to avoid digital eye strain is to have your child follow the 10-10-10 rule. Every 10 minutes have them look at something 10 feet away for 10 seconds. This will allow their eyes to relax and defocus and prevent any strain or discomfort.
True or False: looking straight at the sun can damage your eyes.
Dr. Chew’s response: true.
Dr. Chew explains that the eye acts like a magnifying glass. When you look at the sun, the eyes magnify the light. As the magnified light makes its way to the retina, it can result in retinal burns and scarring.
Burns aren’t the only repercussions of looking directly at the sun. Harmful UV rays can increase your risk of developing eye diseases like:
- Cataracts: Cataracts are a vision condition where the lens of the eye gradually becomes clouded. The lens becomes clouded as a result of a protein buildup on the lens. Cataracts normally develop over time after repeatedly being exposed to UV rays unprotected.
- Eye cancers: We wear sun screen to protect our skin from cancer cause by the sun, so why not protect our eyes? Though eye cancer is rare, it is more common for the cancer to develop on the eyelids, which could potentially spread to the inside of the eye. The two most common forms of this cancer are melanoma and lymphoma.
- Pterygium: Pterygium are growths that develop on the cornea of the eye. This condition is often referred to as surfer’s eye because surfers who spend all day on the water often develop these growths. These growths are noncancerous.
- Snow blindness: It doesn’t need to be summertime to be wary of the sun. Skiers often suffer from snow blindness which is a painful temporary blindness. The sun’s rays can bounce off the bright snowbanks and burn the cornea of the eye.
Avoiding these problems are very easy and stylish. Donning a pair of sunglasses with UV protection lenses every time you go out can make all the difference. A hat can also help to cover your whole face to protect the parts of the eye that is sometimes not protected by the glasses.
For athletes, tinted goggles or glasses will prevent burning and temporary blindness. There’s nothing worse than getting blinded on the ski hill, mid-run.
True or False: we might get the same eye problems as our parents.
Dr. Chew’s response: true.
According to Dr. Chew, some eye diseases do run in families. She stresses the importance of knowing your family’s medical history. Knowing your parents and grandparents eye health history can help with early eye disease detection and prevention.
Half the battle of preventing eye diseases is knowing how at risk you are of developing them. A good place to start is with your family history. Ask you parents about their parent’s eye health and make sure your eye doctor knows what to look for when screening your eyes and your children’s eyes.
Some eye diseases that can be inherited are:
- Retinal degeneration
- Optic atrophy
- Ocular misalignment
Know your family history so you aren’t caught off guard when or if you develop a genetic eye disease.
True or False: reading in dim light is harmful to your eyes.
Dr. Chew’s response: false.
Dr. Chew explains that reading in dim light for children is not harmful to their eyes. Their young eyes can adjust to dim lighting much more easily than older eyes.
This may be true for children, but for adults, reading in dim light can cause similar symptoms to digital eye strain. Adequate lighting can take some of the pressure off your eyes during reading.
Even though dim lighting may not affect your kids now, don’t let them make a habit of it. It may cause problems for them in the future. An easy solution is to encourage their reading by buying them portable book light or book lamp.
We’d like to thank Dr. Chew, the kids and the National Eye Institute for asking such pertinent questions and always encouraging eye health education and awareness.