Doctors say there is an epidemic of nearsighted kids

Posted at 10:42 AM, Aug 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-21 19:27:21-04

If your kids suddenly need glasses, they're not alone. Doctors are seeing an epidemic of myopic or nearsighted kids and they're blaming it on one thing -- time on digital devices.

Elle Glassford, 12, visited Dr. Suzanne Riffel for a routine eye exam and was shocked to learn she needed glasses. 

"I was actually really surprised by that because I could see the board fine at school and I never thought there were problems with my vision," she said. 

But it wasn't a surprise to her family optometrist.

"We are finding a huge uptick in the amount of nearsightedness in the younger population to the point that we would use the word epidemic. It's becoming critical," Riffel said. 

The reason? Kids are spending more time than ever before on digital devices like iPads and cell phones.

Riffel explained, "Their whole world is moving in, and we're finding out visual systems are adapting to focus up close as opposed to in a distance."

As a matter of fact, our kids' eyes work so hard to focus up-close their eyeballs actually change shape -- growing longer -- putting kids at a higher risk for retinal detachments, glaucoma and macular degeneration in their older years.

While myopia is not reversible, there are new treatments to help keep your child's eyes from getting worse. Elle is trying the least invasive -- atropine eye drops -- and so far, so good.

A few tips for parents. First, your child's eyes should be checked as an infant and then once a year starting in kindergarten.

Second, after 20 minutes on a device, make your kids take a vision break -- they need to look across the room for a while or go outside.

Finally, your kid's vision can change with growth spurts. So even if you've had their eyes checked in the past year, pay attention when their bodies are changing. Their eyes may be too.