According to a study published in 2015 by FedOpto Medillian vision is 30% genetic and 70% environmentally driven. This means that every day choices you make for your child can have a big impact on his or her vision development. The tips listed below are recommendations to improve eye health. Although it can be difficult to follow them perfectly, focusing on one or two of these tips daily can make a difference in your child’s eye health.
1. Get outside! This is especially important for children who have nearsighted parents. Over 4,000 children participated in the Sydney Myopia Survey which demonstrated that 12 year olds who spent more time outdoors and less time on near work were far less likely to develop nearsightedness than those that spent most of their time indoors. Spending time outdoors in the morning and evening is best because the sun’s rays are not as intense and are less likely to induce UV damage. Don’t forget if your child is outside during the middle of the day it is still important to for them to wear sunglasses. On days where it is not practical to spend time outside, sitting close to a window where they are exposed to natural light is still better than sitting in a dimly lit room with artificial light.
2. Eat less sugar. Movement to a diet of highly processed, low nutrient foods with significantly increased sugar content has been the norm in our country over the past 30 years. Along with this we have seen the number of people with diabetes in our country skyrocket. Increased blood sugar is simply not healthy for anyone’s eyes, especially children. Increased insulin suppresses chemicals in the liver that prevent the lengthening of the eye which is what causes nearsightedness. Some sugar is okay, but sugar is in everything these days, so read your food labels carefully. The simplest tip for avoiding added sugar in foods at the grocery store is to shop around the perimeter of the store and avoid the processed food in the aisles near the center of the store.
3. Limit screen time. The Multi-Ethnic Pediatric Eye Disease Study conducted at USC found that one of the largest causes of myopia or nearsightedness in children was too much screen time. Too much screen time has also been shown to increase the risk of crossed eyes, more specifically esotropia which is inward crossing of one or both of the eyes. It is a good idea to encourage a mix of tasks throughout the day for your child. He or she should take frequent breaks from computer and tablet use and take part in a variety of activities that involve postural changes and physical movement. Performing sedentary tasks like using tablets or computers or watching TV should be limited to less than two hours per day.
4. Get plenty of rest. It is no secret that we need sleep every night to recover from the stresses of the day. When we sleep at night our brain is busy cleaning and removing toxins that we are exposed to during the day. If we don’t get enough sleep then our brains don’t have enough time to clean house every night. Think about your brain like your child’s room. If you only clean up half the toys that he or she left out that day, how much more of a mess will their room be after another full day of playing? Our eyes are an extension of our brains and if our brains aren’t functioning at a high level, neither are our eyes. Getting enough sleep every night is crucial to our eye health.
5. Get an annual eye exam. Screenings at your child’s school or at the pediatrician’s office don’t give us a full picture of how your child’s eyes are developing. Just because your child can see 20/20 on an eyechart doesn’t always mean their eyes are healthy. A comprehensive exam will reveal if your child has any eye disease, and will ensure that your child is able to properly use his or her eyes for highly visual skills like reading.