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6 Common Pediatric Eye Emergencies

The tissues and structures that comprise the eye are some of the most delicate parts of a child’s growing body. So it comes as no surprise that thousands of children sustain eye injuries each year due to infection, sports-related accidents and other recreational activities.

Here are the most common types of pediatric eye emergencies and tips on how to best manage them.

  1. Acute Conjunctivitis

Formally called pediatric acute bacterial conjunctivitis, this severe type of pink eye affects about 1 in 8 children every year. Acute bacterial conjunctivitis typically affects babies, toddlers, and pre-school children.

A child with this infection may experience eye redness, discharge, and itchiness, usually in both eyes. About 39% of children will also have a severe ear infection along with the eye symptoms.

Treatment involves either topical or oral antibiotic medication, or both in severe cases. Contact Switalski Eye Care for prompt treatment if your child shows any signs of acute conjunctivitis.

  1. Cuts or Scrapes In the Eye

Particles of sand, dust, wood shavings and other tiny objects can make their way into a child’s eye and cause a corneal abrasion (a scratch on the surface of the eye). Corneal abrasions may cause vision problems, stinging, burning, light sensitivity, red eyes, swollen eyes, grittiness, and watery eyes.

If you suspect that your child has a corneal abrasion, bring them to an eye doctor. Treatment typically includes eye drops, ointment, and sometimes pain relief.

Until you can visit the eye doctor, rinse the child’s affected eye with saline solution or clean tap water. You can also instruct your child to blink several times to try and flush out whatever is scratching the eye. Your child should not rub the eye, as rubbing can make almost any eye condition worse.

  1. Blunt Eye Trauma

This can happen during sports or rough play. Blunt eye trauma can cause internal bleeding within the eye called hyphema. In severe causes, the extra blood within the eye can cause elevated inner eye pressure and lead to permanent vision loss.

Seek prompt medical care if your child has any of these symptoms after being struck in the eye: redness and swelling, eye drainage, eye pain that won’t go away, vision changes, visible abnormalities of the affected eye, or visible bleeding in the white of the eye (sclera).

  1. Foreign Objects Stuck in the Eye

If your child is complaining that something is stuck in their eye, the first plan of action is to instruct them not to rub it. Visually inspect their eye and see if you find anything. If a foreign object is on the sclera, try flushing the eye with clean water or saline solution.

If it looks like something is lodged in the eye or penetrated through the eyeball, do not try and remove it. Seek immediate medical care.

  1. Chemical Exposure To the Eye

Most households contain a multitude of products that can be damaging to a child’s eyes. Be sure to keep these items out of a child’s reach to prevent accidents. If chemical exposure does occur, check the product’s label for a phone number to call in case of emergency.

Hold your child’s eye open while you flush the eye area with clean water or eye irrigation fluid for about 20 minutes. If both eyes have been exposed, you can put the child in the shower and tell them to face the water so it flows into their eyes.

If you aren’t sure what chemical your child was exposed to, flush the eye before seeking medical treatment.

Above all, when it comes to pediatric eye emergencies, remaining calm is key. Maintaining your composure can help you provide the best care for your child and may help them to stay calm as well.

At Switalski Eye Care, we understand that accidents happen — and we’re here for you. For eye emergencies and other eye care services, call Switalski Eye Care in Switalski Eye Care today.

At Switalski Eye Care, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 972-424-2019 or book an appointment online to see one of our Plano eye doctors.

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Are Contact Lenses Safe For Young Children?

Here’s a question we often get at our practice: ‘Is my child too young for contact lenses?’ This is an important question, and the answer may surprise you.

For children with myopia (nearsightedness), contact lenses can be a convenient method of vision correction. It allows kids to go about their day without having to worry about breaking or misplacing their glasses, and enables them to freely participate in sports and other physical activities.

Some children and young teens may ask their parents for contact lenses because they feel self-conscious wearing glasses. Contact lenses may even provide children with the confidence boost they need to come out of their shell. Moreover, these days, it is very popular for children to wear single-use one-day disposable soft contacts, since there is no cleaning or maintenance involved.

Some parents may deny their child’s request for contacts due to concerns about eye health and safety. There’s no reason to worry: contact lenses are just as safe for children as they are for anyone else.

At Switalski Eye Care, we provide children, teens, and patients of all ages with a wide variety of contact lenses. If you’re concerned about the safety of contacts for your child, we’ll be happy to explain and explore ways to ensure maximum safety, optimal eye health and comfort. To learn more or to schedule a pediatric eye exam for contact lenses, contact us today.

What Are the Risks of Having My Child Wear Contact Lenses?

A study published in the January 2021 issue of The Journal of Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics found that kids aren’t at a higher risk of experiencing contact lens complications.

The study followed nearly 1000 children aged 8-16 over the course of 1.5-3 years to determine how contact lenses affected their eye health.

The results indicate that age doesn’t have an effect on contact lens safety. In fact, the researchers found that the risk of developing infections or other adverse reactions was less than 1% per year of wear — which is comparable to contact lens wearers of other ages.

But before you decide that contact lenses are right for your child, you may want to consider whether your child is ready to wear them. During his or her eye doctor’s appointment, the optometrist may ask about your child’s level of maturity, responsibility, and personal hygiene. Since many children are highly motivated to wear contacts, they tend to display real maturity in caring for their lenses. That said, in the initial stages, parents may need to play an active role, as their child gets used to inserting and removing the new contact lenses.

It’s important to note that just as with any other medical device, contact lenses are not risk-free. Anyone who wears contact lenses has a chance of developing eye infections or other complications with contact lenses. However, when worn and cared for according to your eye doctor’s instructions, contact lenses are low-risk and perfectly safe for children and teenagers.

So, go ahead and bring your child in for a contact lens consultation! We’ll help determine if your child is ready for contacts and answer any questions you or your child may have. To schedule your child’s contact lens fitting or eye exam, contact Switalski Eye Care in Plano today.

How Sugar Affects Your Eyes Health

Eye exam near me

It’s well known that eating a lot of high-sugar foods can have harmful effects on the body. But did you know that consuming too much sugar can also potentially affect your eyesight? If your blood sugar (blood glucose) levels become too high for your body to break down, it can leave your eyes prone to a sight-threatening condition called diabetic retinopathy.

People with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose be absorbed into your cells to supply them with the energy they require to function.

How Does Diabetes Affect Eyesight?

When you consume high-sugar foods like soda, candy, mangoes, and even pineapples, your body will do one of two things: either it will burn the sugar and use it for energy, or it will convert the sugar and store it as fat.

Ordinarily, when a person consumes sugar, the body releases insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. In people with Type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t produce insulin. In Type 2 diabetes, the body produces insufficient insulin or the cells resist the effects of insulin, causing blood sugar levels to spike.

How Sugar Affects People with Diabetes

Diabetic retinopathy affects up to 80 percent of people who have had diabetes for 20 years or more. Over time, high blood sugar levels damage the tiny blood vessels of the retina at the back of the eye, causing them to swell and leak. Left untreated, this damage can lead to vision loss and eventually blindness.

Since diabetic eye disease typically shows no symptoms until it has reached more advanced stages, it’s critical to have a comprehensive eye evaluation every year, allowing an optometrist to detect these signs early enough to prevent or halt vision loss.

Importance of Eye Exams

Your eye doctor can detect diabetic retinopathy during a dilated eye exam. The doctor will dilate your pupils with eye drops and then examine your eyes through a device called an ophthalmoscope that uses a bright light to examine your optic nerve, the blood vessels in and around the retina, and the back of the eye.

Your doctor might also use various specialized digital equipment, such as a fundus camera and an OCT device, to capture detailed color images of the retina that warrant further investigation.

Although an optometrist can use certain tests to detect signs of diabetes, without a comprehensive eye exam, the early warning signs that point to diabetes can be missed. To maintain your health, schedule regular eye exams and share any health changes that have occurred since your last appointment.

Treatments for Diabetic Retinopathy

There are a variety of treatment options for diabetic retinopathy that may either prevent vision loss. Sometimes they can even improve your vision, even if your eyesight is already blurred. One treatment option entails medication that is injected into the eye to quickly reduce retinal swelling. Another option is laser surgery, which can be used to shrink and seal off swollen and leaking blood vessels in the retina.

If you have diabetes, it’s important to:

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle
  • Stick to a steady diet and exercise regimen
  • Control blood sugar and blood pressure to prevent damage to the fine blood vessels within the retina over the long term

Preventing and managing diabetic retinopathy is possible and requires a team, including your eye doctor and other medical professionals.

Your eye doctor will perform a comprehensive eye exam to determine whether you have diabetic retinopathy, assess its severity, and discuss preventative strategies as well as the latest treatment options.

Keep your eyes healthy and schedule an appointment with Switalski Eye Care and learn more about what you can do to protect your vision and general health.

Dangerous Halloween Makeup Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

Eye Care at Switalski Eye Care

Eye Care at Switalski Eye Care

Using face paints and eye makeup can be a fun and creative way to dress up this Halloween. But since costume makeup is often applied more heavily than day-to-day makeup, it involves greater risk of eye infection and irritation. Here are our recommendations for keeping your eyes safe and happy while rocking your Halloween makeup look.

  1. Only use products that are intended for use around the sensitive eye area, such as the eyeshadow and eyeliner you use all year long. Many face paints and other products sold before Halloween are not eye-friendly. Be sure to read a product’s instructions before applying it.
  2. Try to use hypoallergenic products to lower the risk of an allergic reaction.
  3. Avoid applying costume makeup directly on your eyes, even if the product’s packaging depicts an image of an eye with closely applied makeup. A good rule to follow is keeping the makeup above the eyebrow.
  4. If you plan to use a new product, test it out on a small area of skin a few days before Halloween to ensure that it won’t irritate your skin.
  5. There is no luminescent or fluorescent cosmetic product that is FDA-approved for use around the eye area. Don’t apply makeup containing these ingredients.
  6. To prevent irritation, promptly remove your eye and face makeup after trick-or-treating or attending a Halloween party.
  7. Follow the removal instructions that are written on the product’s label.
  8. Always replace Halloween makeup from year to year. Using last year’s cosmetics significantly raises your risk of introducing harmful microbes into your eyes.
  9. Never share eye makeup with another person.

Some signs of irritation include eye redness, itchiness, inflammation, pain, sensitivity, or watery eyes. If you experience any uncomfortable symptoms due to eye makeup or anything else, contact Switalski Eye Care for a prompt eye examination. We wish all of our patients a safe and happy Halloween!

Nearsightedness – A Common Condition in Children

Visit our eye doctor to find out if your child has myopia

Nearsightedness, also known as myopia, is the most common vision condition in kids. Put simply, it means that when your child looks at objects in the distance, they appear blurred. When nearsightedness begins, most kids won’t complain. However, parents and school teachers may notice them squinting all the time. This is a bright red warning that it’s time for an eye exam!

A thorough assessment of your child’s vision is the only dependable way to detect or rule out nearsightedness or any other vision condition. Our eye doctor in Plano, Texas, is experienced in performing pediatric eye exams; contact Switalski Eye Care to book an appointment – we’re open after school hours and on Saturdays.

What causes nearsightedness?

Usually, nearsightedness is inherited. It is caused by having an elongated eyeball, which affects the path of light when it enters the eye. Instead of focusing directly on the retina, which is needed for clear vision, light bends incorrectly and focuses in front of the retina, making things that are far away look blurry.

Myopia tends to worsen throughout childhood, with the progression coming to a halt by about 20 years old, in most patients. By that point, kids and young adults may need very strong prescription lenses in order to see clearly.

What’s the treatment for nearsightedness?

The frontline, classic treatments recommended by eye doctors for nearsightedness are eyeglasses or contact lenses. After we check your child’s visual acuity in our Plano optometry practice, we’ll issue a precise vision prescription. Then, you can shop our optical collection for glasses. When kids prefer contact lenses, we’ll perform a specialized eye exam to ensure they are good candidates and a fitting to determine the best type of contacts.

Is there a way to slow the deterioration of nearsightedness?

Yes. Called myopia control or myopia management, treatment to slow the progression of nearsightedness is becoming a popular method recommended for kids.

Many children with nearsightedness find their vision worsens over time, and each year, they need a new, more powerful vision prescription. Not only might this require thicker, less attractive eyeglass lenses, but it’s also associated with an increased risk of developing ocular disease in the future. Myopia control has shown tremendous promise as a way to help kids avoid these problems. Two typical types of myopia management include orthokeratology, better known as ortho-k, and dual-focus contact lenses. To find out if myopia control is suitable for your child, consult with our Plano eye doctor.

Sharp vision is necessary for all kids to develop their potential and perform at their best in school, on the sports field, when socializing and for all parts of life. Book an eye exam to ensure that your child isn’t suffering from undetected nearsightedness.

At Switalski Eye Care, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 972-424-2019 or book an appointment online to see one of our Plano eye doctors.

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Signs & Symptoms of Pink Eye in Kids

Pink eye – or what your eye doctor may call conjunctivitis – is common in young children. It’s typically contagious, and it can spread rapidly through playgrounds and preschools. While pink eye is often diagnosed in kids, it can also affect teenagers and adults. At our Plano, Texas, eye care center, we diagnose and treat eye infections in patients of all ages.

What is pink eye?

This pesky infection is an inflammation of the conjunctiva (the thin membrane that covers the eye surface and inner eyelids) and the sclera (white part) of the eye. While it can look bad, it is usually a minor infection that’s not serious. But whenever you notice the signs of an eye infection in your child, it’s important to bring them to the eye doctor because many types of conjunctivitis require treatment to heal.

What are the different types of pink eye?

Our eye doctor in Plano, Texas, will perform an eye exam to diagnose the specific type of pink eye, such as:

  • Infectious pinkeye, which is contagious, can be caused by bacteria or viruses. In fact, the same kinds of bacteria and viruses that lead to colds, sore throats, and ear and sinus infections can cause pink eye. Bacterial pink eye is treated with antibiotic drops or ointment, whereas viral pink eye will gradually clear up on its own.
  • Allergic conjunctivitis, which can be triggered by pollen, grass, dust mites, animal dander, and other airborne allergens can lead to pink, itchy eyes.
  • Irritant conjunctivitis, which can be caused by any irritants – such as chlorine or cigarette smoke, may result in similar symptoms.

What are the signs and symptoms of pink eye?

As the name states, a pink or red color in your kid’s eye is the most common sign. In addition, watch out for:

  • Discomfort; many kids complain of a feeling that sand or something is stuck in their eye.
  • Oozy discharge that forms a crust on the eyelids while sleeping; it can be yellow, green or white
  • Swelling of the conjunctiva – you may notice swollen eyelids
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Itchiness and watery eyes – especially when it is allergic conjunctivitis

How can pink eye be prevented in children?

Touching an infected person or something the person has made contact with, such as a towel or toy, is the most direct way for kids to catch an eye infection. It can also spread through coughing and sneezing. With that in mind, keeping distance from other kids and their personal items is a good way to help prevent the spread of pink eye. They shouldn’t ever share tissues, eye makeup, eye drops, towels or pillowcases. Teaching kids to wash their hands thoroughly, using soap and warm water, is also important.

When should I bring my child to the eye doctor?

If you notice the signs and symptoms of pink eye in your child and they do not show improvement within 2 -3 days, call your eye doctor. Or, if you’ve already visited our eye doctor and received treatment that hasn’t appeared to help within a few days, contact our Plano optometry office.

At Switalski Eye Care, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 972-424-2019 or book an appointment online to see one of our Plano eye doctors.

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How Can My Child’s Myopia Be Corrected?

At Switalski Eye Care, we help children like yours achieve clear and comfortable vision, so they can succeed at the important things in life.

Methods of Myopia Correction

Contact Lenses

Contacts can be a great choice, especially for physically active children or teens who don’t want to worry about breaking or misplacing their eyeglasses. In some cases of very high myopia, contact lenses can offer clearer vision than glasses.

Corrective contact lenses are usually placed in the eyes upon waking and removed at night before bedtime. There are several types, including: soft contacts, daily disposables, extended wear, and rigid gas permeable (hard) lenses. Navigating through the differences between them can be daunting. Fortunately, if you’re located in Plano our eye doctor will be happy to guide you. Speak with Dr. Switalski to determine whether your child is ready for contact lenses.

Prescription Glasses

Glasses are a popular choice among our younger patients. Choosing from an array of styles makes the process fun and exciting! Allowing the children to be active participants in selecting their eyewear increases the likelihood that they’ll actually wear them. There are strong, flexible and resilient frames which look great and are comfortable too.

The optician can customize the lenses with additions and upgrades like impact-resistant or shatter-proof materials, scratch-resistant and anti-reflective coatings, UV filters, and transition lenses that darken in the sun. For those requiring vision correction for distance and near, we also offer bifocal or multifocal lens prescriptions.

We Can Help Correct Your Child’s Myopia

If you’re located near Plano, Texas, an eye exam with our optometrist can determine your child’s exact prescription, and give you the opportunity to receive answers to any questions you may have about your child’s eye health and vision. Progressive myopia, where a growing child’s prescription continues to worsen, is why it’s important for myopic children to undergo eye exams at least once a year.

At Switalski Eye Care, our friendly and knowledgeable staff will be happy to recommend the most suitable method of correcting your child’s myopia to meet his or her individual needs. Thanks to the wide range options available, your child will walk away with eyewear that will not only enhance his or her style but will also be a boost of confidence.

Let us help your child see the world in a whole new light. To schedule your child’s annual eye exam or if you have any further questions, contact Switalski Eye Care at 972-424-2019 today.

Help! My Child Doesn’t Want to Wear Glasses!

Do your kids need glasses in order to see clearly? Maybe they have a strong case of nearsightedness, perhaps they have astigmatism, or another type of refractive error. Whatever the cause, getting your kids to wear eyeglasses can be a parenting challenge.

Dr. Switalski treats patients from all over Plano, Texas with their vision correction needs. The knowledgeable, caring staff at Switalski Eye Care can help you and your kids if they’re struggling with their glasses or don’t want to wear them.

Why Won’t My Child Wear His or Her Glasses?

To help your children get the best vision possible, you first need to understand why they’re fighting with you over their glasses. It usually stems from something physical, emotional, or social, such as:

  • Wrong fit
  • Wrong prescription
  • Personal style
  • Reactions from friends

How do you know which it is? Pay close attention to the signs, from what your kids say, to how they behave, to how they interact with others.

Physical

Improper fit is a big reason why glasses could feel uncomfortable. If they slip down, itch behind the ears, or put pressure on the bridge of the nose, it can explain why a child wouldn’t like to wear them.

If there’s been a big change to their prescription, they may need time to get used to it. If they were given the wrong prescription, they may be straining their eyes, getting headaches, or having eye fatigue. An incorrect prescription can make wearing glasses painful or awkward. It doesn’t correct their vision, either, so they’ll still see blurry images. When this happens, your eye doctor can check the prescription and make an adjustment.

Emotional

Your kids at home aren’t the same as your kids in school, on the sports field, or with their friends. They may be afraid of being made fun of in school, or they may not want the sudden attention on their appearance. These feelings can be even stronger among the tween and teen set.

Social

Even young kids can feel different when they put on a pair of glasses, especially if it’s for the first time. Feeling different or weird, in their eyes, translates to a negative experience. When wearing glasses makes them feel like the odd man out, they may not want to wear them. The last thing your child wants is to feel like a social outcast. After all, everyone wants to belong.

How We Can Help

First, bring your child in to the eye doctor for an eye exam. Our optometrist, Dr. Switalski, will check to make sure that your child has the right prescription and that any vision problems are being corrected. Next, we’ll take a look at the glasses and place them on your child’s face to determine if they’ve got the proper fit. Our optician will take care of any adjustments that need to be made.

The Vision They Need, The Style They Want

Fashion isn’t only for adults. Your budding fashionista or trendy young stud wants to look awesome, so don’t forget about style. When your kids look great, they’ll feel great! Give them the top-quality eyewear they need without compromising on style. Your kids are a lot more likely to wear glasses when they like the way they look.

What You Can Do to Help

Encourage, stay positive, and don’t give up. Avoid telling them what you want them to wear. Let them choose for themselves. In the end, they’re the ones wearing the glasses. Making decisions is an important life skill, something they’ll need as they grow up and become more independent.

For younger children, use positive words to encourage them. Talk about how glasses are like magic, letting them see beautiful things around them. Show them how a pretty flower or a bright red truck looks with the glasses on, and how different it looks with the glasses off. For older kids, throw in a little pop culture. Tell them how trendy they’ll look by showing them pictures of celebrities who also wear glasses. You’ll also rack up some cool parent points.

At Switalski Eye Care, we have the experience and unique approach to children’s eyewear that will make your kids want to wear their glasses. Schedule an eye exam today – you can book an appointment online right here. If you have any questions or concerns, give us a call and we’ll be glad to help.

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.

 

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