VIRGINIA BEACH -- 9-year-old Justice Jackson was all dressed up for Halloween. His mother wanted to make sure nothing scary was going on with his eyes, so she took him to a free Halloween eye exam at Pembroke Mall sponsored by the Kempsville Lions Club of Virginia Beach.
The Lions found without his glasses, Justice had some myopia.
"What's myopia?" asked Justice's mother, Norelia.
"Moderate severe near-sighted in his right eye," explained John Watter, a retired ophthalmologist.
Justice says when he does his homework, reading the words on the page isn't easy.
"They're all blurry, all scattered everywhere," he admits. "They're hard to see. I have to squint."
Some eye health organizations put some of the blame on advancing technology leading to "Computer Vision Syndrome."
Bausch and Lomb defines it as a strain on the eyes that happens when you look into a computer or other device for prolonged periods of time.
When kids spend several hours staring into the small screens of our computers, cell phones, I-phones playing video games, texting, watching video clips and TV shows, it could lead to fatigue, headaches, dry eyes or blurred vision.
Dr. Eric Crouch at Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters says that can happen because a child doesn't blink as much when staring at a screen. That effects tear film in the eye.
"The tear film is a layer that covers the cornea," explains Dr. Crouch. "If it's disrupted at all, like in a decreasing blink rate, the effect is you'll get dry spots on the eye and that's what leads to blurry vision or double vision."
Computer Vision Syndrome doesn't always lead to other problems, but Dr. Crouch says parents should keep an eye out.
"If the child was having headaches related to their homework or difficulty focusing with reading activities, those would certainly be something you'd want to investigate because they could be part of computer vision syndrome or they could be something else," Dr. Crouch states.
The good news is in most cases, research shows the discomfort from computer vision syndrome is temporary and should end soon after the child leaves the activity.
Other research lists simple ways to protect your children from computer vision syndrome:
*Make sure the lighting in the room is comfortable on the eyes so they don't stare into glare on the screen.
*Keep the device they're looking at at arms length and below eye level.
*Make the pictures and font larger.
*Keep blinking. Over a prolonged period that could avoid someone getting dry eye.
*Take breaks. Some time away from the screen could be refreshing for your child's eyes.
If problems persist, they should see the doctor. Justice did and he got glasses. Now, it's easy for him to put everything in focus.
This footnote: The Kempsville Lions Club in Virginia Beach has been holding eye fairs and conducting free eye tests at many events throughout our area. They can start testing children at 6 months old. Since October, 2010, they've screened more than 19,000 children and referred about 3,500 to the eye doctor. They stress that not all of those referrals were because of computer vision syndrome.