INDIANAPOLIS — As we continue to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic, optometrists have been dealing with a pandemic themselves for years.
Between iPads, video games and now virtual learning, experts say children have the visual jobs of computer programmers, causing a rise in kids needing eyeglasses a lot sooner.
“It was our own little eyeball pandemic before COVID ever hit,” said Dr. Katherine Schuetz.
Dr. Schuetz has been an optometrist for 21 years and specializes in pediatrics.
“We've been calling it the myopia pandemic and definitely nearsightedness is hitting kids at younger ages, and the progression is a lot faster than what we've seen in previous decades, so not only are more of the world children becoming more nearsighted, it's happening more quickly,” said Dr. Schuetz
She said there are two things you can do to help your child’s vision. The first spending time outside.
“If kids are outdoors (on average) two hours a day, it prevents the genetic component of two nearsighted parents, so we know that kids have two parents who are wearing glasses for near fitness they have like a 70% chance of becoming nearsighted, but if they're outdoors you can lower that to almost nothing, which is impressive,” said Dr. Schuetz.
The second thing is exercising your eyes by taking breaks from looking at your devices.
“Our rule is the 2020 rule every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for a minute or two that's ideal it's not an easy habit to get into, but it is very helpful in terms of reducing strain and just really flexing the visual systems for this not looking screen right in front of you all day every day,” said Dr. Schuetz.
Dr. Schuetz recommends parents bring their children in for a baseline eye exam by age 5.
“We really don't want kids in glasses. I know that seems like that be cannot be from an eye doctor, but my job is to kids as low on the prescription so that there is least dependent as possible,” said Dr. Schuetz.
Now when it comes to blue light blocker glasses, Dr. Schuetz said she does recommend them to protect the eye, almost like sunscreen, and to level out melatonin levels, but she says they will not change the progression of a child’s eyesight.