Heartland eye doctor weighs-in on children and phones

Heartland eye doctor weighs-in on children and phones
Updated: Nov. 10, 2017 at 5:12 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Where would we be without our cell phones?

They keep us in constant touch, store thousands of pictures, and offer tons of entertainment.

No one loves their phones more than kids, but all that screen time could lead to serious eye problems.

Cape Girardeau optometrist Kory Thoma has been in practice for 16 years, but in the last two years, he's seen an explosion of kids complaining about blurred or double vision, headaches, and headaches after school.

"I'm seeing patients as young as eight years old," said Dr. Thoma.

The culprit? Kids are spending too much time in front of screens, especially their phones.

Fourteen-year-old Claire Bruenderman used to spend four to five hours a day on her phone until she noticed a problem.

"I would look up from my phone and have double vision."

Claire's parents had her lay off her phone for a month,  which she did, but the double vision persisted.

"We thought that would take care of it, but a month later, she still had double vision so we took her to see Dr. Thoma," recalled Claire's father Darrin Bruenderman.

Dr. Thoma put Claire in what's called anti-fatigue glasses, which are essentially bi-focals for kids.

There is no line in the glasses, but the bottom half of the lenses magnifies the screen for Claire.

She is not alone. if Dr. Thoma sees five kids, one of them will leave with anti-fatigue glasses, "I'll bet I prescribe these 3-4 times a day, to kids."

The problem is that by staring at that small phone screen for hours, kids are fatiguing what's called the accommodation muscles in their eyes.

"It's like any muscle," pointed out Dr. Thoma, "you use it too much, it's gonna get tired."

The anti-fatigue glasses cost about $300 and are not covered by insurance unless there is a prescription in the top half of the lenses.

Two months after wearing the lenses, Claire is still seeing double vision.

Dr. Thoma said the phenomenon is so new, he has no idea when Claire's eyes will return to normal.

To help avoid a trip to the eye doctor, limit the amount of time your child is on his or her phone.

Claire is now only using her phone 2-3 hours a day.  Dr. Thoma advises that kids, and adults to take breaks from looking at their phones. Go outside, watch TV, use that distance vision.

Finally, make sure your child holds the phone away from his or her face. Holding it too close makes those accommodation muscles work harder. If problems still persist, then it's time to see an optometrist.

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