Eye Health for the Holidays

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Lots of wish lists this year include electronics like tablets, smartphones, and computers.  It's the time of year some doctors dread because they know just a few months from now, they'll be seeing more people- kids in general- with eye issues.

There's a very real problem to watch out for called computer vision syndrome.    
"It was coined in 2005, and it describes a group of vision and eye-related problems that we're seeing with prolonged computer use," said Dr. Debra Lehr, an optometrist at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center. 

She points out that although it's called computer vision syndrome, it also refers to texting and video games.  Children are more susceptible to it because their visual systems aren't as fully developed as adults.
"They feel that whatever they see is normal, even if it is blurred or distorted.  They don't perceive it as being a problem, which why routine eye exams are important for kids, even if they're not complaining," Dr. Lehr told us.

Some symptoms to watch for include blurred vision, eye strain and fatigue, red and/or dry irritated eyes, head or neck aches, and back pain.  You can minimize the strain by using good posture and keeping your eyes moisturized, either by blinking of with drops.

Another good idea to consider is the 20-20-20 rule.

"For every 20 minutes of computer use, look off into the distance 20 feet or greater, for 20 seconds.  This allows the focusing system to relax," she explains.

Dr. Lehr says 30 years ago, about 25% of Americans were near-sighted.  Now that number is up to 41%, which some eye doctors attribute at least in part to computer use.