MIDLOTHIAN, Va. -- A Central Virginia optometrist is alarmed at the prevalence of eye conditions exacerbated by remote learning and persistent screen time.
Dr. Jerry Neidigh, of Grove Eye Care, said he and his teams in Chesterfield County and Richmond have seen a surge in new patients as people become more comfortable returning to doctors' offices.
“Even now I’m seeing many patients that I had seen pre-pandemic finally coming in. They’re finally feeling comfortable,” Dr. Neidigh explained.
The eye care professional of 23 years encouraged families to see an eye care professional before the school year starts.
“We spent the last year, year and a half where they were virtual and a lot of kids are getting headaches, eye strain, and dryness from being on the computer all day,” Neidigh said.
He warned too much screen time can exacerbate vision problems for young children.
“There’s been a huge increase of children that have become nearsighted. That’s been happening for years just because our visual demand has changed so much. Especially with remote learning, virtual learning, and all the devices and screen time we’ve definitely seen an uptick in the number of children who are becoming nearsighted,” Neidigh said.
Parents are encouraged to place their child’s computer monitor at a lower position and at an arm’s length away, which is the optimal, natural-focusing position for the eye. Plus, check the brightness of the monitor to match the lighting in the room.
Blue light lenses may also help ease eye strain.
Dr. Neidigh also warned about mask associated dry eye or MADE.
“We know that masks are proven to reduce the spread of the coronavirus so it’s important for kids to wear masks in school. We just know with that, there are potential side effects. The eyes can dry out a little bit, there’s a correlation with acne as well,” he explained. “These are things that aren’t permanent problems. They aren’t going to damage the eye long-term.”
A child’s dry eyes can be remedied by using artificial tears, but that shouldn’t be a deterrent for wearing a mask in public.
Neidigh urged both adults and children to take short, frequent breaks away from the computer screen. Just one to three hours outside a day has also been proven to reduce nearsightedness in children.