Lose The Electronics And Gain A Life!
When your parents were growing up, there was probably only one kind of electronic screen in their homes–the television. Today, screens are everywhere. From big-screen TVs to pocket-sized video games, from computers to cell phones, kids are growing up in homes filled with electronics. You may count on those devices to keep you informed and entertained. But you might not have counted on the damage they can do to your vision. All those bright, flashing lights–and the squinting you do as you stare at them–could be taking a toll on your eyes.
Screen It Out
Consider the case of an 8-year-old boy recently treated by Stuart Dankner, an ophthalmologist at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who examines eyes and diagnoses and treats eye disease. Dankner’s patient was healthy but suffered from daily headaches.
People who need glasses sometimes get headaches, so Dankner gave the boy a vision test. His eyesight was normal. Dankner was stumped until he noticed that his young patient never went anywhere without his Nintendo Game Boy, which he played constantly. On a hunch, Dankner gave his patient an unusual prescription: He asked him to stop playing the game for a week. It worked. The headaches stopped.
“There’s no scientific proof that overuse of a computer or TV will permanently damage eyes,” said Dankner, “but there are symptoms that can occur, [such as] eyestrain and headaches.” Signs of eyestrain include burning or itching eyes, difficulty in focusing the eyes when switching between the monitor and nearby paper documents, and blurred or double vision.
Line of Sight Perhaps the most common affliction linked to screen watching is myopia, or nearsightedness. By age 18, one in five Americans has myopia–they can see things nearby, but objects in the distance appear blurry. Genetics
is partially to blame for myopia. However, reading and doing close-up visual work add to the problem, reports the American Optometric Association (AOA). Optometrists are professionals who detect eye problems and treat them by nonsurgical means. Andrea Thau, a spokesperson for the AOA, says that people today use their eyes for different purposes than humans once did. “Our eyes were designed for long-distance viewing–looking for danger in the distance, judging to hunt or shoot an animal at a distance. Three-dimensional viewing.
The issue for the 21st century is that most of our vision now is flat, two-dimensional–video screens, books. Myopia is increasing because of all this close-up work we do.” Why does close-up viewing lead to myopia? Steven Lichtenstein, a physician in Louisville, Ky., explained: “When you look at things up close, you flex a tiny muscle–located where the
colored part of the eye meets the white part–and the lens of the eye gets plump.” Some kids’ eyes tend to stay in that plumped-up position, prepared to see things up close, and they lose the ability to see objects far away.
Get an Eyeful That doesn’t happen to everyone, Lichtenstein emphasized. Doctors aren’t sure why. They are certain of one thing, though: There’s more to life than zoning out in front of a screen. “There’s nothing wrong with a
video game or spending time on the computer, as long as it’s not excessive,” added Thau. “You’ve got to give your eyes a rest–get outside, ride a bike, play ball.” It’s time you gave your eyes the variety they deserve. Doctor’s orders.
Be on the Lookout …Experts recommend that you have your eyes checked at least every two years. You should also schedule an eye exam if you frequently
* rub your eyes,
* have headaches,
blurred or double vision, * lose your place while reading or need to use a finger to maintain your place on the page.