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Detecting Eye Strain in Your Children

Eye strain is a common eye condition which leads most people to brush it aside. While it may not usually be a cause of concern, you should still pay attention to it as it may be indicative of more serious eye conditions.

Detecting this condition may be easy for an adult. However, it can prove to be challenging when it concerns children. Studies show that around 25% of school age children actually need eye glasses or contact lenses, yet their vision problems remain undetected. What starts out as a simple eye strain in children may actually worsen if it is left untreated.

Here are some things you need to watch out for to determine if your children are experiencing eye strain.

Symptoms

Here are some common symptoms that your child may exhibit:

•    Complains about having tired eyes
•    Frequent rubbing of eyes
•    Squinting
•    Headaches
•    Discomfort
•    Blurry or double vision
•    Watery eyes
•    Dry eyes
•    Sensitivity to light or photophobia.

Vision Problems

It is difficult to determine if your children are experiencing eye strain because chances are, they will not be able to articulate what they feel. They might think that having a blurry vision is normal because they do not know any different. The strain may actually be caused by any of the following uncorrected vision conditions:

•    Myopia or Nearsightedness. This is a common vision problem wherein things appear blurred from afar.

•    Hyperopia or Farsightedness. This is also a common condition wherein objects up close appear blurred.

•    Astigmatism. This eye condition is often combined with farsightedness or nearsightedness.

•    Presbyopia. This vision problem occurs when there is a need to wear bifocals to assist in reading. This of course is not a children’s problem as it affects people over the age of 40.  Even though children do not suffer from presbyopia, they can require bifocals or multifocals to allow their eyes to function more naturally.  This is usually due to eye muscle imbalances.

Video and Computer Games

Video and computer games are probably the most common culprits for eye strain in children. Kids tend to be too engrossed in playing these games so they end up getting used to their vision problem. They would rather keep on playing than complain about the symptoms they are feeling or ask you to help correct the problem.

Children might end up developing computer vision syndrome when they use the computer for hours without taking into account the tiredness of their eyes. Studies show that as much as 93% of computer users experience eye strain and the condition can worsen the longer the time you devote on your computer. Make sure to monitor your kids’ computer and video game times and remind them to take short eye breaks every hour to avoid experiencing strain on their eyes.

Light Conditions

Lighting is also essential in avoiding eye strain in children. Specifically, you should watch out for the following:

•    Your children are prone to experience this condition if they frequently stay outside and are exposed to bright light for a long period of time. You can ask them to wear good quality sunglasses that will help reduce the glare and protect their eyes against ultraviolet radiation. Sunglasses with ultraviolet filter act as sunscreen for the eyes, thereby protecting the eyes from overexposure to radiation.

•    When your children are working or reading, make sure that the level of light is at a comfortable level. The eyes will be strained if the light is too dim.

What is the best treatment for Eye Strain in Children?

This is easy! Good old fashioned play outdoors.  Who ever invented eyes did not invent them to read and look at computers all day long.  We are designed to look at the trees and get fresh air.

About the Author

Dr Jim Kokkinakis (Optometrist) graduated in 1983 from the Optometry School University of NSW. He is currently a Senior Lecturer there and regular speaker to both Optometrists and Ophthalmologists in Australia and Internationally. He has a specialist clinical practice in the Sydney CBD with interests in Eye Strain, Computer Vision problems, Treatment of Eye Diseases and complex Contact lens Fittings.

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