More kids needing glasses at earlier age

Kids are needing glasses at earlier and earlier ages.
Kids are needing glasses at earlier and earlier ages.(WSBT)
Updated: Jan. 7, 2020 at 9:27 PM CST
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(WSBT) - Eye doctors are seeing more kids needing glasses earlier in their lives. The likely reason? Ophthalmologists think it’s something they are doing both at school and at home.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, since 1971, the incidence of nearsightedness in the US nearly doubled, to 42%. In Asia, up to 90% of teenagers and adults are nearsighted.

When we met her, Lily Francis was getting her eyes checked. It was a typical checkup. Nothing had changed for the 13-year-old and she still needed the glasses she had been prescribed a few years ago.

“So, Lily was just kind of complaining a little bit about school, about not being able to see the board or do her work, so we brought her in to have her tested,” explained Lily’s mom, Elisha.

It's a common problem. In fact, more kids in the US are needing glasses than ever before and at earlier ages.

“So here at Boling Vision Center, we check eyes all day long,” said Dr. Amy Layman, an ophthalmologist.

Layman is seeing more kids with nearsightedness -- that means kids are having trouble seeing things that are far away. Layman and other doctors are also seeing more dry eye and eye strain.

A 2019 study in Ophthalmology, the Journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology provided more numbers showing that at least part of the worldwide increase has to do with “near-work activities.” That means while it’s easy to blame screen time, looking at anything close up for long periods of time can have an impact – that includes books.

The study also found that spending time outdoors, especially as young children, can slow the progression of nearsightedness.

“We like the 20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes of looking at something up close like studying or playing video games, if you can take an opportunity to look at something far off, something outside for 20 seconds,” said Layman.

Elisha is very conscious about how much time her kids are spending outside because they are home-schooled.

Lily needs glasses to see well and like many children, her brother will probably need them one day as well.

“She is an avid reader. She didn’t get a lot of screen time,” said Elisha, “I think my 7-year-old gets more screen time for the age range than Lily did, but with her school, she is on screens a lot now.”

Layman says parents can:

  • Remind kids to hold the device 18″ away
  • Take breaks every 20 minutes
  • Adjust the brightness on the screen
  • Get outside
  • Filter out blue light on screens

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