Today we are all obsessed with mobile devices, and with good reason. They inform us, entertain us, keep us in touch with family and friends, and the list just goes on.
The problem, however, is that optometrists are seeing an alarming number of people with severe eye problems caused by these devices. This has prompted the optical profession to research this topic, in turn revealing some really horrible statistics showing that if the trend continues at the current rate up to half the world’s population could be blind with myopia by 2050. In 2000, roughly 25 percent of the world’s population had myopia, a preventable condition that could occur to you or your children. Myopia, or “shortsightedness”, is commonly seen in Asian countries where children spend comparatively more time using close ranged vision. This growing epidemic, which was hardly ever seen in Australia and other western countries, overlaps with the recent trend of mobile devices becoming the new “shut-up toy”, something to keep the kids quiet so mum and dad can get some peace and quiet. Some optometrist are seeing toddlers as young as 4 and 5 years old with eye strain and early on-set myopia caused by many hours of prolonged use on mobile phones and tablets.
So what is myopia and why is it a problem.
Myopia or shortsightedness is a common vision condition in which you can see objects near to you clearly, but objects further away are blurry. It has been shown to occur due to focusing too long on very close objects, a lack of sunlight during the early growing years, plus other factors like genetics. It has always been a progressive eye problem, meaning it continues to get worse until it is impossible to make a corrective lens with enough power to help the patient see, leading to blindness.
So how do you stop this from happening to your child.
We all know that it would be impossible to live in today’s world without these devices due to the benefits they bring, even for toddlers and kids, but as a parent with the knowledge that these devices cause major eye problems it is up to you to set limits on how long they are used. I suggest that everyone (including adults) spends no longer than 10 minutes using these devices and then 10 minutes off. The 10 minutes off does not mean you go from the phone to the tablet or vice versa. This time would preferably be spent outdoors looking far into the distance to relax the strained eye muscle. Surely not too tall an order when you know it could save you or your child’s eye sight.
Currently there is no cure. The only solutions at the present time are to wear prescription glasses, contact lenses or laser surgery – keratomileusis (LASIK) and photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). Both change the shape of the cornea to better focus light on the retina. Note that children are normally limited to prescription glasses only.
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