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Is School Work Causing Computer Vision Syndrome in Your Child?

Eye health tips for students from our Sidney eye doctor

The start of fall means back-to-school for kids of all ages – and our team at Ray Dahl Optical & Optometrists wishes everyone a smooth and successful return to the classroom!

When your child enters school after a summer of outdoor fun, many of the summer’s vision hazards are left behind. Yet, that doesn’t mean all eye health risks are eliminated! Nowadays, the majority of learning is computer based – exposing students’ eyes to the pain and dangers of blue light and computer vision syndrome. Fortunately, a variety of helpful devices and smartphone apps are available to block blue light and keep your child’s vision safe and comfortable.

To help you safeguard your child’s vision for the upcoming semesters and the long term of life, our Sidney optometrist explains all about computer vision syndrome and how to prevent it.

Symptoms of computer vision syndrome

It’s smart to familiarize yourself with the signs of computer vision syndrome. If your child complains about any of these common symptoms, you can help prevent any lasting vision damage by booking an eye exam with our Sidney eye doctor near you:

  • Eye irritation and redness
  • Neck, shoulder and back pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Dry eyes, due to reduced blinking
  • Headaches

Basics of blue light

Students spend endless hours in front of digital screens, be it a computer monitor, tablet, or smartphone. There is homework to be done, research to be conducted, texting with friends, and movies and gaming during downtime. All of this screen time exposes your child’s eyes to blue light.

Many research studies have demonstrated that flickering blue light – the shortest, highest-energy wavelength of visible light – can lead to tired eyes, headaches, and blurry vision. Additionally, blue light can disrupt the sleep/wake cycle, causing sleep deprivation and all the physical and mental health problems associated with it. As for your child’s future eye health, blue light may also be linked to the later development of macular degeneration and retinal damage.

How to avoid computer vision syndrome

Our Sidney eye doctor shares the following ways to block blue light and protect against computer vision syndrome:

  • Computer glasses, eyeglasses lenses treated with a blue-light blocking coating, and contact lenses with built-in blue light protection are all effective ways to optimize visual comfort when working in front of a screen. These optics reduce eye strain and prevent hazardous blue-light radiation from entering the eyes.
  • Practice the 20-20-20 rule; pause every 20 minutes to gaze at an object that’s 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This simple behavior gives eyes a chance to rest from the intensity of the computer or smartphone screen, preventing eye fatigue.
  • Prescription glasses can be helpful when using a computer for long periods – even for students who don’t generally need prescription eyewear. A weak prescription can take the stress off of your child’s eyes, decreasing fatigue and increasing their ability to concentrate. Our Sidney optometrist will perform a personalized eye exam to determine the most suitable prescription.
  • Moisturize vision with eye drops. One of the most common symptoms of computer vision syndrome is dry eyes, namely because people forget to blink frequently enough. Equip your child with a bottle of preservative-free artificial tears eye drops (available over the counter) and remind them to blink!
  • Blue light filters can be installed on a computer, smartphone, and all digital screens to minimize exposure to blue. A range of helpful free apps are also available for download.
  • Limit screen time for your child each day, or encourage breaks at least once an hour. Typically, the degree of discomfort from computer vision syndrome is in direct proportion with the amount of time your child spends viewing digital screens.
  • Set the proper screen distance. Younger children (elementary school) should view their computer at a half-arm’s length away from their eyes, just below eye level. Kids in middle school and high school should sit about 20 – 28 inches from the screen, with the top of the screen at eye level.

For additional info, book a consultation and eye exam at Ray Dahl Optical & Optometrists

When you and your child meet with our Sidney eye doctor, we’ll ask questions about your child’s school and study habits to provide customized recommendations on the most effective ways to stay safe from computer vision syndrome and blue light. Our optometrist stays up-to-date with the latest optic technologies and methods to prevent painful vision and eye health damage from using a computer, so you can depend on us for contemporary, progressive treatment.

School and Vision: 2 Important Partners

It’s February and that means we’re smack in the middle of winter, which is also the middle of the school year. It’s the season when kids fervently hope for snow days and parents hope they don’t happen. As we head towards the second half of the school year, you’ve probably attended a few parent-teacher conferences and discussed your child’s education.

Like peanut butter and jelly, school and vision go hand-in-hand. Both are important partners in ensuring that children excel in their learning, extracurricular activities, and relationships with their peers.

ADD/ADHD and Vision Problems

Did you know that certain vision problems can mask themselves as behavioral or learning difficulties? In fact, education experts often say that 80% of learning is visual.

A 3rd grader may be misdiagnosed with ADD or ADHD if they display behaviors like being fidgety, having difficulty focusing or concentrating, or having a short attention span. These symptoms may not always be purely behavioral; they could be vision-related. A child who experiences blurry vision, suffers from headaches or eyestrain, or itches their eyes excessively may, in fact, have a refractive error such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) or astigmatism, or another condition such as convergence insufficiency.

Undiagnosed myopia, for example can cause these same types of behaviors that are commonly attributed to attention disorders. That’s because if your child has to squint his eyes to see the board clearly, eyestrain and headaches are bound to follow. Struggling with reading or writing is common too. Other vision disorders can cause similar behavior patterns. An additional challenge is that kids don’t always express their symptoms verbally, and often they don’t even realize that other people see differently than do.

This can also impact kids emotionally. When they feel like they’re not keeping up with their peers or their learning is inferior in some way, this may lead the child to act out verbally or even physically.

Distinguishing between colors is an important skill for early childhood development. While color vision deficiency affects both children and adults, kids, in particular, can experience difficulty in school with this condition. Simply reading a chalkboard can be an intense struggle when white or yellow chalk is used. When a teacher uses colored markers on a whiteboard to draw a pie chart, graph, or play a game, this can be a difficult experience for a young student with color blindness. A child, his or her parents, and teachers may even be unaware that the child is color blind.

What School Vision Screenings Miss

Many parents believe that an in-school vision screening is good enough. However, an eye chart test only checks for basic visual acuity, so kids with blurry or double vision, for example, may be able to pass a vision screening while still struggling to read, write, or focus on the board. Children who have problems with their binocular vision, which means using both eyes together to focus on something, can pass the screening when they use just one eye to read the chart.

Studies show that a whopping 43% of children who have vision problems can successfully pass a school vision screening. This means that the vision test may fail to detect the more subtle but significant and treatable vision problems. Early detection and diagnosis is critical to maintaining healthy eyes. That’s why it’s so important to make eye care a part of your child’s healthcare routine.

The Importance of Yearly Eye Exams

The #1 way to do this is to schedule annual eye exams. Your eye doctor can perform a comprehensive pediatric eye exam to check visual acuity, visual clarity, binocular vision, and screen for any eye diseases or vision problems.

Because children develop so rapidly at different ages, it’s essential that eye exams are done at specific stages of their young lives. In fact, The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends regular eye exams at age 6 months, 3 years, before school starts, and every 2 years thereafter.

Simply being aware of the tendency to associate a child’s learning issues with a learning disability or attention disorder instead of an underlying vision problem is critical for parents and educators. Both are partners in a child’s education and they must work together to ensure that each child gets the health care and attention he or she needs.

If you notice changes in your child’s schoolwork, behavior with friends or in sports or other after-school activities, it may be time to schedule an eye exam. You’ll want to be sure that your kids have all the tools they need to succeed in school and beyond.

Is Too Much Screen Time Dangerous For Your Kids?

Screen Time Pros and Cons

Whether it is homework, email, gaming, chatting with friends, searching the web or watching Youtube, kids these days seem to have an endless number of reasons to be glued to a screen. Many parents out there are wondering how bad this can be for their kids and whether they should be limiting screen time.

There are certainly benefits to allowing your kids to use digital devices, whether it is educational, social or providing a needed break. However, studies show that excessive screen time can have behavioral consequences such as irritability, moodiness, inability to concentrate, poor behavior, and other issues as well. Too much screen time is also linked to dry eyes and meibomian gland disorders (likely due to a decreased blink rate when using devices), as well as eye strain and irritation, headaches, back or neck and shoulder pain, and sleep disturbances. Some of these computer vision syndrome symptoms are attributed to blue light that is emitted from the screens of digital devices.

Blue light is a short wavelength, high-energy visible light that is emitted by digital screens, LED lights and the sun. Studies suggest that exposure to some waves of blue light over extended periods of time may be harmful to the light-sensitive cells of the retina at the back of the eye. When these cells are damaged, vision loss can occur. Research indicates that extreme blue light exposure could lead to macular degeneration or other serious eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness. Studies show that blue light also interferes with the regulation of the the body’s circadian rhythm which can have a disruptive impact on the body’s sleep cycle. Lack of quality sleep can lead to serious health consequences as well.

Beyond these studies, the long term effects of blue light exposure from digital devices are not yet known since this is really the first generation in which people are using digital devices to such an extent. While it may take years to fully understand the impact of excessive screen time on our eyes and overall health, it is probably worth limiting it due to these preliminary findings and the risks it may pose. This is especially true for young children and the elderly, who are particularly susceptible to blue light exposure.

How to Protect the Eyes From Blue Light

The first step in proper eye protection is abstaining from excessive exposure by limiting the amount of time spent using a computer, smart phone or tablet – especially at night, to avoid interfering with sleep. Many pediatricians even recommend zero screen time for children under two.

The next step would be to reduce the amount of blue light entering the eyes by using blue light blocking glasses or coatings that deflect the light away from the eyes. There are also apps and screen filters that you can add to your devices to reduce the amount of blue light being projected from the screen. Speak to your eye doctor about steps you can take to reduce blue light exposure from digital devices.

As a side note, the sun is an even greater source of blue light so it is essential to protect your child’s eyes with UV and blue light blocking sunglasses any time your child goes outside – even on overcast days.

The eyes of children under 18 are particularly susceptible to damage from environmental exposure as they have transparent crystalline lenses that are more susceptible to both UV and blue light rays. While the effects (such as increased risk of age-related macular degeneration) may not be seen for decades later, it’s worth it to do what you can now to prevent future damage and risk for vision loss.

 

Is Your Teen Ready for Contacts?

Many teens who wear glasses are eager to try out contact lenses for convenience, fashion or to just provide another option for vision correction. For teens who feel self-conscious in their glasses, contact lenses can be a way to improve self-esteem. Young athletes and swimmers find that contacts are an excellent option for sports, especially as younger kids are becoming involved in travel sports and club teams outside of school.

While contacts might appear to be the perfect solution for teens that need corrective eyewear, they are a convenience that comes with a lot of responsibility so it’s not a decision to take lightly. Improper use of contact lenses can cause severe discomfort, infections, irritation and, in the worst cases, eye damage or even permanent vision loss.

“With Privilege Comes Responsibility”

Contact lenses are a medical device and should always be treated as such. They should never be obtained without a valid contact lens prescription from an eye doctor, and always purchased from an authorized seller. Among other issues, poor fitting contact lenses bought from illegitimate sources have been known to cause micro-abrasions to the eyes that can increase the risk of eye infection and corneal ulcers in worst case scenarios.

Particularly when it comes to kids and teens, it is best to purchase contact lenses from an eye doctor as they possess the expertise to properly fit contact lenses based on the shape of the eye, the prescription, the lifestyle of the child and other factors that may influence the comfort, health and convenience of contact lens use.

There is some debate over the recommended age for kids to start considering contact lenses. While some experts will say the ideal age is between 11 and 14, there are many responsible children as young as 8 or even younger who have begun to successfully use them. When children are motivated and responsible, and parents are able to ensure follow-up to the daily regimen, earlier contact lens use can be a success. A good measure of whether your child is responsible enough to use contacts is whether they are able to keep their room clean, or maintain basic hygiene like brushing teeth regularly and effectively.

When you think your child might be ready, you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor for a contact lens exam and fitting. The process will take a few visits to perform the exam, complete a training session on how to insert, remove and care for lenses, then to try out the lenses at home and finally reassess the comfort and fit of the contacts. You may try out a few varieties before you find the best fit.

What Kind of Contact Lens Is Best for My Teen?

The good news is that contact lens use has become easier than ever, with safety, health and convenience being more accessible as technology improves. There are a number of options including the material used to make the lenses (soft or rigid gas permeable), the replacement schedule (if disposable, how often you replace the pair – daily, weekly, biweekly or monthly) and the wear schedule (daily or extended overnight wear).

Single use, daily disposable lenses have become very popular, particularly with younger users, because they are easy to use, requiring no cleaning or storing, and therefore they reduce the risk of infection and misuse. You simply throw out the lenses at night and open a new one in the morning. Your eye doctor will be able to help you and your teen determine the best option.

Tips for Contact Lens Wearers

Following are some basic contact lens safety tips. If your teen is responsible enough to follow these guidelines, he or she may be ready for contact lens use:

  1. Always follow the wearing schedule prescribed by your doctor.
  2. Always wash your hands with soap before applying or removing contact lenses.
  3. Never use any substance other than contact lens rinse or solution to clean contacts (even tap water is a no-no).
  4. Never reuse contact lens solution
  5. Follow the eye doctor’s advice about swimming or showering in your lenses
  6. Always remove your lenses if they are bothering you or causing irritation.
  7. Never sleep in your lenses unless they are extended wear.
  8. Never use any contact lenses that were not acquired with a prescription at an authorized source. Never purchase cosmetic lenses without a prescription!

Contact lens use is an ongoing process. As a child grows, the lens fit may change as well, so it is important to have annual contact lens assessments. Plus, new technology is always being developed to improve comfort and quality of contact lenses.

Contact lenses are a wonderful invention but they must be used with proper care. Before you let your teen take the plunge into contact lens use, make sure you review the dangers and safety guidelines.

Protect Children’s Eyes During Sports

The new school year has kicked off and you can tick off purchasing all that back to school equipment. Now, it’s time to think about what your child will need for after school sports and hobby activities.

Making sure they have the right protective eyewear for their sporting or athletic activities should be one of the top priorities on your list. Here’s why: according to new data from Prevent Blindness America, approximately 25,000 people sought treatment for sports-related eye injuries in 2013, and around 10,000 were children under the age of 14.

Wearing protective eyewear when playing sports can help prevent serious eye injuries. Here are some tips on how to go about choosing the most apt protective eyewear for your child:

  1. Consult with your eye doctor and the child’s coach to find out what type of protective eyewear is best for the athletic activity your child is involved in. The kind of eyewear your child will need depends on the sport they are playing.
  2. Know the sports and its dangers: Across all age groups, sports-related eye injuries occur most frequently in water sports, basketball, and baseball or softball. Safety standards are met using shatter-resistant polycarbonate or trivex lenses.
  3. Protect and correct: If your child already wears glasses, find out what options are available for adding their prescription to protective eyewear they will need. Or consider contact lenses.
  4. Ensure sufficient UV protection: If your child’s activity takes place outside, make sure that the protective eyewear you choose includes sufficient protection from harmful UV rays.
  5. Set an example: Wear protective eyewear yourself. This will help to show your child it is possible to protect your vision and enjoy a sporting activity at the same time.

The majority of eye injuries can be prevented. Newer safety eyewear models often have wraparound styles to improve peripheral vision and style appeal. Kids can have fashion and function in today’s safety eyewear. Make sure that your child’s eyes are protected while they strive to reach the top of their game!

Dealing with Your Tween’s and Teen’s Eyesight

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It can be devastating for a tween or teen to be told he or she needs to wear glasses, especially if it is sudden. Many tweens and teenagers are concerned about how glasses will affect their appearance, whether they will be made fun of (which unfortunately is a legitimate concern – kids can be mean!), how they will manage with a new responsibility and what the implications will be for sports and other activities. Many tend to overlook the miracle of clear vision for the perceived negative impact the glasses may have.

If your child would rather suffer with blurred vision, headaches and even trouble with schoolwork than wear glasses, the good news is that there are options that even the “coolest” preteen or teen might find acceptable.

    1. Fashion eyewear: It has never been more fashionable to wear glasses than it is today – just take a look at Hollywood’s red carpet. Encourage your child to seek out a look or a celebrity style they like and have your optician help to find that. The optician and optometrist can recommend what shapes and materials are available for the lens Rx, while your teen can have fun with the color and style. Or just browse around at the plethora of fun styles available for teens these days. “Make it fun and encourage your preteen to be excited about their new purchase. If it is within your budget you may even want to consider purchasing two pairs so he or she can have a choice depending on mood and wardrobe.

 

    1. Consider contacts: If your child feels self conscious or inhibited, particularly in sports, by wearing glasses, look into contact lenses. Contact lenses are a great solution particularly for athletes because they provide safety and a full field of view as opposed to glasses or sports goggles. Before you can take the plunge into contacts you need to consider the following:
        • Is his or her prescription and eye health suitable for contact lenses? There are a number of conditions which prohibit contact lens use or require special lenses. Check with your optometrist to find out what options exist for your teen or tween.

       

        • Is he or she responsible enough to care properly for contact lenses? Improper care of contact lenses can cause irritation, infection and damage to the eyes. Your teen must understand the risks and be responsible enough to follow the optometrists instructions when it comes to use and care. How do you know if your teen or tween is ready for contacts? Look at his or her bedroom. How clean and tidy is it usually? This is a good indicator if he or she is ready to wear contacts on a daily basis

       

      • Does he or she have any preexisting conditions that would make contact lens wear uncomfortable? Individuals that have chronic eye conditions such as dry eyes, allergies or frequent infections may find contact use uncomfortable or irritating.

      If your teen or tween would like to consider contacts, you should schedule a consultation with your eye doctor and try a pair for a few days to see how it goes.

 

  1. Alternative options: In some situations there may be other options such as vision therapy or Ortho-K (where you are prescribed special contacts to wear at night that shape the cornea for clear vision during the day) which could result in improvements in vision. Speak to your optometrist about what alternatives might exist for your teen or tween.

How to Encourage Young Kids to Wear their First Pair of Glasses

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Your child’s first pair of glasses will make an important difference in his or her ability to see and interact with the surrounding world. However, a new pair of glasses can also present a big adjustment for both parents and kids as you get used to a new look and a new responsibility. For many families this can be a cause of conflict as children may refuse to wear their new specs or be forgetful or careless by losing or breaking them. Parents should also be sensitive to the fact that it could affect a child’s self esteem and unfortunately deal with teasing by peers.

Here are some ideas to pull you through the initial days of your child’s first frames and some tips on how you can help them ease into their new look.

  1. Display an encouraging and positive attitude about your child’s new look. Don’t just talk about how important glasses are for your child, but play up the fact that they now have a new, fun accessory or magic tool to help them have a better “power” of vision (whatever you think will speak to your child). On the other hand if your child picks up that you are disappointed about the new look, it will rub off and they might not be as willing to persevere.
  2. Ensure that your child is rested and in a good mood the first time he or she puts the glasses on.
  3. Let your child wear his or her glasses for short periods while doing an enjoyable activity where wearing glasses will make the biggest difference, for example while watching a favorite television show, or reading a favorite book. The aim here is that your child will be having fun and recognizing the benefits of the new glasses at the same time.
  4. Before you leave the eye doctor’s office, have the optician check that the glasses fit right and have a comfortable style. This means that they don’t slip, pinch or put pressure on your child’s face, are not too loose or too tight. Glasses that don’t fit right won’t feel right and children won’t want to wear them if they aren’t comfortable.
  5. Don’t turn wearing glasses into a battle or constantly nag your child to wear the frames. Help your child understand that being able to see is a gift.
  6. Encourage and praise your child when they do wear their new frames, especially until wearing glasses becomes second nature.
  7. Make glasses part of the daily routine. Make it the first thing your child does in the morning and the last thing to do before going to bed.

 

Remember, it can take time to adjust to wearing glasses, not to mention seeing with a new prescription. Be patient and remember to focus on the gift of eyesight and the enhanced quality of life your child will have in the long run.

Books for Kids

Here are some books you can read with your kids about wearing glasses:

The Princess Who Wore Glasses by Laura Hertzfeld Katz

Arlo Needs Glasses by Barney Saltzberg

Luna and the Big Blur: A Story for Children Who Wear Glasses by Shirley Day

Fancy Nancy: Spectacular Spectacles (I Can Read Book 1) by Jane O’Connor

Fun Holiday Gifts That Are GOOD for Children’s Vision

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The holiday season is on our doorstep. With technology so much a part of our lives, the easy go-to gifts for kids often include an enormous array of hand-held video devices and home gaming systems. Did you know that after extensive use these games can be harmful to children’s eyes and might even induce eye strain and focusing issues?

If you want to buy wisely for your children or grandchildren this year, choose a fun gift that actually develops and promotes visual skills such as eye hand coordination, visualization, depth and space perception and fine motor skills all while they have fun playing.

Here is a list of games and toys that help to develop visual skills, while engaging children in fun activities.

First, a basic rule: Always ensure the toys are suited to the child’s development and level of maturity. Manufacturers often provide suggested ages for a toy, but keep the individual child in mind as children develop at different rates.

1. What to buy: building toys

How they help children’s vision: develop eye hand coordination and visualization and imagination skills.

Examples: Lego, Duplo, Mega Bloks, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, Clics

2. What to buy: fine motor skill toys and arts and crafts

How they help children’s vision: develop visual skills and manual eye hand coordination.

Examples: finger paints, playdough, coloring books, dot to dot activities, pegboard and pegs, origami sets, stringing beads, whiteboard/easel/chalkboard.

3. What to buy: space perception toys and games

How they help children’s vision: develop depth perception and eye hand coordination.

Examples within arm’s length: pick- up sticks, marbles, Jenga

Examples beyond arm’s length: any kind of ball, ping pong, bean bag toss.

4. What to buy: visual/spatial thinking toys and games

How they help children’s vision: develop visual thinking including visualization, visual memory, form perception, pattern recognition, sequencing and eye tracking skills. These skills are vital basics for academics including mathematics, reading and spelling.

Examples: memory games, jigsaw puzzles, Rory’s story cubes, card games (Old Maid, Go Fish, etc.), Dominoes, checkers, Chinese checkers, Rush Hour/Rush Hour Jr., Bingo, Color Code, Math Dice.

5. What to buy: balance and coordination toys and games

How they help children’s vision: develop gross motor skills which require use of vision

Examples: jump rope, trampoline, stilts, Twister.

As you can see, there are plenty of amazing toys available to improve your child’s visual skills. The best part is, many of them take the children away from the screen and get them thinking, moving and creating. This year, choose a holiday present that will help your children grow, develop and see a better future.

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