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All About Vision

Nearsighted (Myopia)

Nearsightedness, technically known as myopia, is a condition which causes difficulty focusing on objects at a distance, while near vision remains normal. Myopia is one of the most common vision problems worldwide and it is on the rise.

Myopia Signs and Symptoms

People with myopia are usually able to see well up close, but have difficulty seeing objects at a distance. Due to the fact that they may be straining or squinting to see into the distance, they may develop headaches, eye fatigue or eye strain.

Myopia Causes

Myopia is a refractive error caused by an irregular shaped cornea that affects the way light is focused on the retina. For clear vision, light should come to a focus point directly onto the retina. In myopia, the cornea is longer than usual, resulting in a focus point that falls in front of the retina, causing distant objects to appear blurry, while close objects can be seen normally.

Myopia typically has a genetic component as it often appears in multiple members of a family and it usually begins to show signs during childhood, often getting progressively worse until stabilizing around age 20. There may also be environmental factors that contribute to myopia such as work that requires focusing on close objects for an extended period of time and spending too much time indoors.

Diagnosis of Myopia

Myopia is diagnosed by an eye examination with an qualified optometrist. During the exam the optometrist will determine the visual acuity of the eye to prescribe eye glasses or contact lenses. A prescription for myopia will be a negative number such as -1.75.

Treatment for Myopia

Myopia is typically treated with corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses and in certain cases refractive surgery such as LASIK or PRK is an option. Surgery is the most risky treatment as it requires permanently changing the shape of the cornea. Other treatments involve implanting a lens that reshapes the cornea called a phakic intra-ocular lens or vision therapy. A treatment called Ortho-k, in which the patient wears corneal reshaping contact lenses at night to see without correction during the day can be another option.

While some people require vision correction throughout the day, others may only need it only during certain tasks such as driving, watching television or viewing a whiteboard in school. The type of treatment depends on the overall health of your eye and your eye and vision needs.

Low Vision

Low vision is considered significant vision impairment that usually results from serious eye disease or an injury. The vision loss, which is characterized by either reduced visual acuity (to 20/70 or worse) or reduced field of view, can’t be fully corrected with glasses, contact lenses, medication or surgery.

Low vision can affect both children and adults, but is more common in the elderly, who are at greater risk of eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts, which are some of the most common causes of the condition.

Patients with low vision may have complete central or peripheral vision loss, blurry vision, poor low-light vision, loss of light sensitivity and/or loss of contrast, making daily activities such as writing, watching TV, driving or reading difficult or impossible. Since the vision loss can’t be corrected, low vision requires significant adjustments to daily life and the help of techniques and specialized low vision aids to help maximize the remaining vision to increase independence and quality of life.

What are causes of low vision?

  • Eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and retinitis pigmentosa
  • Eye injury or brain injury
  • Heredity

How does low vision affect eyesight?

Low vision is partial vision loss which varies from person to person. Depending on the severity and type of vision impairment, the patient may have some useful vision. Typically the impairment includes a significant reduction in visual acuity to worse than 20/70, hazy, blurred vision, blind spots or significant visual field loss and tunnel vision. Sometimes the extent of vision loss is considered to be legal blindness (20/200 or less visual acuity in the better eye) or almost total blindness.

How does low vision affect daily life?

With significant vision loss it can become challenging to complete common daily tasks including reading, writing, cooking and housework, watching television, driving or even recognizing people.

When low vision is diagnosed it can come as a shock. Initially, it is an adjustment to learn how to function with impaired vision but the good news is there are numerous resources and products available to assist. Because low vision often results in one’s inability to work, function independently, drive and resume normal life, many patients feel isolated and depressed.

Visual Rehabilitation and Visual Aids

Low vision means that a minimal amount of sight remains intact. There are millions of people who suffer from the condition and manage to function with the remaining vision available to them through the use of visual rehabilitation or visual aids.

What are visual aids?

These are devices that help people with low vision function by maximizing their remaining eyesight. This often involves the use of magnifiers (handheld, mounted or stand-alone), telescopes and other tools to enlarge the images of objects to make them more visible. Some visual aids reduce glare and enhance contrast which makes it easier to see. Other low vision aids act as guides to help the person focus on non-visual cues, such as sound or feel. Finding the right visual aid is a matter of consulting with a professional and experimenting with what works for you and your daily needs.

How to make life with low vision easier

  1. Ensure that you have adequate lighting in your home. This may require some trial and error with different lights and voltages to determine what works best for you.
  2. Use a magnifier. There is a vast selection of magnifiers available, ranging from hand-held to stand magnifiers. Binoculars and spectacle mounted magnifiers are also an option.
  3. Your optometrist or low vision specialist can recommend specialized lens tints for certain conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa or cataracts, which enhance vision or reduce light sensitivity.
  4. Use large print books for reading. Alternatively, try digital recordings or mp3’s.
  5. Make use of high contrast for writing. Try writing in large letters with a broad black pen on a white piece of paper or board.
  6. Adding a high-contrast stripe on steps (bright color on dark staircase, or black stripe on light stairs) can help prevent falls in people with low vision, and may enable them to remain independent in their home.
  7. Find out by researching what other technology is available to help make your life simpler.

If you or a loved one has low vision, don’t despair. Consult with our eye doctor about the best course of action to take to simplify life with low vision.

Children and Computer Vision Syndrome

The use of computers, tablets and other digital devices has become so commonplace in the daily lives of children that a report by The Vision Council in 2015 showed that close to 25% of children spend more than 3 hours a day using some sort of digital device. These numbers are only expected to grow. As these devices are becoming integrated into schools and becoming more common for use at a younger age, many experts and parents are wondering how the use of these devices can affect children’s eyes in the short and long term.

Computer Vision Syndrome (aka Digital Eye Strain)

Just like adults, children are susceptible to computer vision syndrome (CVS), also called digital eye strain, after extended use of computers or digital devices. Symptoms of CVS include eye fatigue and eye strain, dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain.

Staring at a computer screen is a stress for the eyes, particularly for children whose eyes and visual system are less developed. This is because the computer-generated, pixelated images which appear on the screen are not what our eyes are accustomed to and therefore can cause the eye to strain after extended viewing. Some children find it uncomfortable to view screens for long periods because they simply don’t have the focusing power to spend extended amounts of time looking at these pixelated images.

Children don’t always have the self control to limit computer use or the awareness to know when they are experiencing eye fatigue or other symptoms of CVS. Because of this, they are more likely to overuse digital devices which can make symptoms worse.

Screen Use and Myopia

Myopia or nearsightedness is a growing concern as studies show the incidences of the condition are growing exponentially. In the past it was thought that myopia was primarily genetic, however recent research indicates a correlation between environmental factors and the growing exposure to and use of digital devices, particularly in children. As children increase their computer use and time spent on screen, the likelihood of developing myopia seems to also be increasing. According to a study done at the University of California at Berkeley School of Optometry which researched the incidence of myopia in 253 children between 6 years old and 10 years old showed a link with the amount of time spent on a computer.

The Effects of Blue Light

Blue light or high-energy visible (HEV) light is emitted from digital devices and is causing greater and greater concerns about long term exposure. It is already known that blue light can affect sleep and concentration but studies are also indicating that it can cause long term retinal damage, particularly in kids whose young eye have more sensitivity to environmental influences.

How to Protect Your Children from CVS

With the increasing use of and dependence upon digital devices it is important to teach your children good habits to protect their eyes while they are young. Understanding the risks and dangers of prolonged screen time should be taught at an early age. Here are some tips for safe computer and digital device use to reduce digital eye strain and prevent the negative effects it can have on your children’s eyes and vision.

  1. Limit Screen Time: When possible limit screen time to one or two hours a day, particularly for little children who don’t require computers for school work.
  2. Optimize Your Children’s Work Station: Ensure that children are positioned properly and that lighting is appropriate so that they do not have to bend or stretch in unnatural ways to see the screen adequately. The monitor should be slightly below the child’s eye line and about 18 – 28 inches away. The chair should also be adjusted so that the child’s arms comfortably rest on the desk and his or her feet touch the floor (when possible).
  3. Have Regular Eye Exams: Monitor your child’s eyesight, particularly an assessment of their near vision skills.
  4. Follow the 20-20-20 Rule: Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look at something at least 20 feet away.
  5. Get in the Habit of Stretching: At regular intervals stretch the back, arms, shoulders and neck to relieve tension and reduce strain or soreness.
  6. Consider Computer Glasses: Computer glasses are made to help the eyes focus more easily on the computer screen. If your child already wears prescription eyewear, prescription computer glasses are available as well.
  7. Anti-glare: Anti-glare screens or coatings on eyeglasses can reduce glare and eye strain.
  8. Look for signs of eye or vision problems such as blurred vision or eye rubbing, redness or a stiff neck. If you notice any lasting vision problems see your eye doctor for an examination.
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