In the previous post, I introduced to you the concepts of farsightedness (hyperopia) and nearsightedness (myopia). (I also shared with you one of my favorite tricks to keep these two terms less confusing.)
Having read this, hopefully you came away with the understanding that nearsightedness can be caused by factors other than genetics alone. Indeed, factors such as the environment and stress can also play a key role. With that understanding, let’s now dig a little deeper into the intricate relationship between vision and the environment.
What Is the Visual System?
The visual system (composed of the eye and the brain) is the dominant sensory system in humans. This means your eyes collect more information from the environment than from any other human system — even more than your ears, skin or nose!
It is estimated that 70% of what a child learns occurs through his or her visual system. Despite this fact, today, there is still a large percentage of children in this country, and around the world, who have not had a comprehensive eye examination by an optometrist. Most grade schools and pediatrician offices perform what is called a “vision screening.”
Unfortunately, most parents, not of their own fault, are left to believe that vision screenings are the same as eye examinations. Although helpful, a vision screening is not a substitute for the comprehensive eye examination one would receive from an optometrist. If your child is between the ages of 6 and 12 months old, contact your local optometrist to schedule the child’s first comprehensive eye examination.
Most children do not read like adults. Instead of reading in a relaxed state, children often create stress within their visual system. This occurs because of their inherent high level of concentration while performing visual tasks. They read as if they are trying to burn a hole in the page. This also can be brought on by not reading within the proper environment (lighting, sitting position, reading surface, etc.), which can lead to reduced visual performance and development.
At one time or another, we have all witnessed a child locked into a catatonic state while playing video games, texting, reading, etc. Even adults can relate to this attentive stupor, especially after the arrival of a long-awaited novel by their favorite beloved author, for example. But unlike adults, the eyes of most children cannot easily return to a state of rest once the up-close reading activity ends.
When a child looks at objects held up-close at a fixed distance, and over an extended period of time, the focusing muscles in the child’s eyes often become locked at that distance. This can last for minutes, hours or even days. And this can be easily recognized when the child complains about having blurry vision, even after an optometrist has ruled out the need for corrective lenses. What the child really needs is a modification to his or her reading environment and reading habits.
Pediatric Eye Care
This, and the previous blog post, sets the stage for a deeper understanding of the importance of pediatric eye care. At the end of the day, using preventative eye care methods (sleepSEE, low-plus readers, nutrition) provides eye protection for the young-developing visual system.
Stay tuned and thanks for joining me.