Screen time at a young age can impact your eye health long-term

(ABC 6 News) – Many of us have jobs that put us in front of a computer. For some of us, that means hours of screen time every workday. Then, when you get home, you probably look at another screen like your phone for a while. It’s not just adults who need to worry about this “new normal.”

We know our bones grow. We know we lose teeth to get new ones. What I didn’t know and maybe you didn’t, is that your eyes grow too.

Dr. Josie Ausdemore at You and Eye Family Eye Care in Rochester specializes in dry eye therapy. She says the critical period of eye growth for someone is when they are between 6-12 years old. That’s when the eye grows the most.

It’s a growth spurt that can be accelerated by too much screen time. Think of it this way – like eating your vegetables. They help you grow. Except in this case, it’s screen time that makes your eyes grow and it’s not a good thing.

“The eye essentially starts out like a little circle. As it’s growing, it keeps getting longer and longer. Then, it keeps growing too long and it stretches out the eye and puts it at risk.”

Risks like putting more pressure on your eyes.

“The kids start squinting a little bit more when they’re looking out the window in the car. They’re sitting closer and closer to the TV screen. They can’t succeed in school when they’re sitting in the back of the classroom.”

Putting the screen down helps. Dr. Ausdemore said going outside two hours a day does as well. Even if that time isn’t consecutive. But once the eyes grow, there’s no going back.

“Once the eye grows, you’re kind of stuck at that length just like when the kid goes through a growth spurt.”

In the long term, some effects could be Glaucoma – a condition causing blindness. Or, one that is much easier to treat – dry eyes. Either way, you don’t have to be a kid to suffer.

“Excessive screen time and the way you’re just beating up your eyes on the day-to-day activities.”

The computer. The TV. Don’t forget the phone.

“We have these little oil glands on our eyelids that when you’re not blinking and squeezing out the oils, they get stuck when you’re not blinking.”

So what can you do? Some of your options include light therapy. Or, you can ask your eye doctor for specialized lenses. For kids, there are even some to help slow their eye growth.

There are also some simpler options like a hot compress, specialized eye washes, and using some sort of blue light glasses.

Bottom line: Move away from the screen for just a little while.