Other things include regular eye exams, and sunglasses or hats to
shade kids’ eyes, experts say.
While so-called refractive error (that is, the need for vision
correction) and eye disease is sometimes hereditary, and some eye
disease is congenital, some issues are preventable, said Dr. Ron
Weber, an Atlanta-based ophthalmologist.
For example, myopia, or nearsightedness, “not only has a genetic
component but is also influenced by how kids use their eyes during
childhood,” he told Reuters Health by phone.
He said that extended close work, such as reading, has long been
suspected to cause nearsightedness. Recent support for the
association has come from a study (online here: http://bit.ly/1tYhqKD)
in which people with a higher level of education were more likely to
have myopia, purportedly because they spend more time reading or
working on computers. Another study (online here: http://bit.ly/1wxsiUl)
showed that children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to
But these findings don’t mean kids should be discouraged from
reading or working on the computer. Instead, Weber suggests, make
sure a child’s environment is well-lit while they are doing close
work. Parents should also help kids get into the habit of holding
their reading material at the optimal distance – about 18 to 22
inches, he said. Finally, taking a break every five minutes or so,
to let the eyes relax and focus on an object in the distance, will
One of the most important things a parent can do to help head off
eye disease and vision problems is to make sure their child gets
regular eye exams, beginning early in life.
“The majority of vision problems in children are preventable and
treatable,” said Dr. Ida Chung, president of the College of
Optometrists in Vision Development. “Eye conditions, whether
hereditary or not, can best be managed by having the child receive
their first eye examination as early as possible.”
Chung recommends that children have their first eye exam before
turning one. The American Optometric Association has a recommended
schedule of exams for older kids, available online here: http://bit.ly/1uBu4BC.
Children should also be tested for visual skills before starting
school – not just sight, but how eyes track, depth perception, 3D
vision, and sustained focusing. “If a child is found to have
deficient visual skills, treatment with optometric vision therapy
can result in dramatic improvements in a child’s visual comfort,”
[to top of second column]
Finally, many parents don’t think of putting sunglasses on their
kids, but experts say it should be as second nature as other sun
protection. “If your kid is in a situation where you’re putting
sunscreen on their skin, that should prompt you to also put a hat on
to shade their eyes, and maybe sunglasses,” said Weber.
Added Chung, “Children’s crystalline lens are particularly
susceptible to UV radiation and due to their young age (they) are at
a higher risk of accumulative effects that lead to premature
cataracts when they are older.”
She said that because children spend a lot of time outdoors, it’s
important to make sure that the direct exposure to sunlight doesn’t
damage their retinas. She advises parents to look for sunglasses
that block out 99 to 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B radiation, screen
out 75 to 90 percent of visible light, and have lenses that are gray
for proper color recognition.
As for those carrots? “Vitamin deficiencies, particularly vitamin A,
can damage vision,” said Weber. “So, yes, carrots are good for your
eyes. We also know now that macular degeneration, which is a disease
of the elderly, is associated with a deficiency of antioxidant
vitamins. The development (of this disease) can be slowed by eating
antioxidant vitamins and fresh fruits and vegetables, especially
greens. It’s good for kids to develop those habits now.”
Chung pointed out that eating a lot of carrots won’t have a direct
effect on a child’s vision. But, she agreed, “Carrots do contain
Vitamin A. The eye does need good nutrition to develop which
includes Vitamin A.”
Omega-3 fatty acids are also important for proper eye and vision
development, she added.
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.