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Is technology causing your child’s eye problems?

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It's hard to imagine our lives without smart phones, tablets and computers.

According to a New York Times article, children ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day staring at a some kind of screen.

Tech savvy toys may be revolutionizing the way we work, learn and play, but some say too much of a good thing, can be bad.

"We're seeing, I would say, about three and five patients a week," said Dr. Emily Schottman, a board certified vision therapist with Stars in Your Eyes Optometry and Optical.

Dr. Schottman said, "The statistics are that one in four children have an undetected vision problem that may or may not be fixed by a pair of glasses."

She says "Computer Vision Syndrome," also known as "CVS,"  is a real problem for today's children.

"They're on a computer many more hours a day than we were when we were growing up," said Dr. Schottman.

According to the American Optometric Association, CVS symptoms can include; eyestrain, fatigue, headaches, blurred near and distant vision, irritated eyes and double vision.

"A lot of parents ask their children, were you seeing double when you were trying to read? and they go, yea, but they didn't think to tell you about it," said Dr. Schottman.  "If you think about it, if they have double vision, how are they going to fill in the right scantron bubble?  Because, those bubbles are small."
Because of this, Dr. Schottman says kids can be misdiagnosed with a learning disability.

Dr. Schottman said, "The teacher is telling the parent, your child is not paying attention in class.  He's highly distractible.  He's not comprehending and yet he can be glued to an Ipad for hours on end.  Why is that?"
She says all too often the real issue is their vision.

Dr. Schottman said, "Eyesight, which is your ability to see things clearly, 20 feet away.  Vision means that the brain is receiving the information...and then it's coming out in the form of your answers when you're taking a test."
This optometrist believes in what's called "vision therapy" to provide good eye health care, which to her, requires more than just a regular eye exam.

"All your doing is looking 20 feet away, you're not looking 20 inches away, which is where that child's world is because that's how long their arms are, or that's where the Ipad is," said Dr. Schottman.

Therapy sessions are usually recommended twice a week.

Dr. Schottman said, "I definitely have had children, who have come in and their parents thought maybe they have a learning disability...and then after they've gone through the vision therapy program, their academic performance is better."

"What the science shows is that there's a lot of science out there," said Dr. Schottman.  "Not most clinicians who spend all day long seeing patients, have time to read the research."

There are plenty of studies focusing on the issue, but even at that, not all medical professionals see eye to eye.

"It's the position of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology that we don't feel there's a lot of validity, in most cases, for vision therapy," said Dr. Melinda Rainey, a board certified Pediatric Ophthalmologist with Dell Children's Eye Center.

"My doors would be flooded with patients if this was all true...I just haven't seen an uptick from the use of screen time," Dr. Rainey said.
She sees about 40 patients a day.

Dr. Rainey said, "I don't see an increase incidence of headaches or irritated eyes from the screen use."

"I hardly ever see a child that has computer vision syndrome, in fact..."I think it's a not a real least not in children," Dr. Rainey said.  "It is true that when you look at a computer, or when you drive, or when you read for a prolonged period of time, whether it be on a computer or in a book, is you tend not to blink as frequently because you're staring...adults...they tend to have drier eye, tend to produce less tears."
Refresh rates on computer screens, backlights on TV's and a lack of clarity on electronic reading devices are all blamed for "CVS."

"I don't believe that.  I think you can get your kindle and your HD and everything else on the computer to be just as crisp and clear on a piece of paper," Dr. Rainey said.  "There's a condition that's been around for a long time, but it doesn't necessarily have to do with any screen use, called "convergence insufficiency...You have to be able to cross your eyes slightly in order to read normally and some people have difficulty doing that."
Dr. Rainey says this happens to about 3% of the population.

"We feel that a vision screening is sufficient and cost effective for catching most of the patients that have this difficulty," said Dr. Rainey.  "And it's fairly easily treated at home...we have kids look at a stick and bring it in close to focus and learn to strengthen these eyes muscles."
A parent will pay for almost anything, if they believe their child needs it.

Just make sure to keep an eye out for any kind of warning signs in your little one.

Every child is different.

Both doctors admit one method might have more success than the other.

The research and studies are out there, so for more clarity, read up before visiting the eye doctor.

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