Eye Care for Teens
A teen's eyesight is still developing. Good nutrition, preventative eye care and a healthy lifestyle are more important than ever. At the same time teens have more obstacles to maintaining a healthy diet and wholesome lifestyle, including greater access to junk foods, alcohol and tobacco, more time on electronic devices and demanding school sports or extra-curricular activities. All of these put great demands on a teenager's nutritional requirements. Use of recreational chemicals as well as prescription drugs (acne medications, antidepressants, diabetes medications and others) can interfere with absorption of valuable nutrients. For teens nutritional supplements and juicing can be essential to add compact delivery of essential nutrients to a diet which ought to, but may not include large helpings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds and cold water fish.
Vision Concerns for Teens
- Smartphone use is a primary source of problems with teen vision difficulty: tired eyes, blurry vision, as well as poor sleep. The main issue is the distance we hold smartphones away from the face and eyes.
While a typical computer should be at least 20″ away from the face, a study found that subjects held
smartphones an average of 11.5 inches away from the face.1 The researchers asked youths aged 18-25 to
read an extract of a novel on a smartphone for one hour. Researchers tested for eye fatigue before and
after reading. The scientists measured how far away the students held their phones while reading.
The distance varied throughout the reading period, between 8.6″ and 14.4″ away from their faces,
getting increasingly close as time went on — and — closer than was found in previous research.
The subjects reported a significant increase in symptoms of tired eyes, uncomfortable eyes,
and blurred vision.
Smartphones provide convenient entertainment while a person is lounging in bed. People lying down tend to hold the phone very close to their face than when they sit up; between 3.9″ and 8.4″.2 Additionally, lying in bed is often associated with lights out. Looking at a smartphone screen with no ambient light causes excessive dilation of the pupils which allows even more blue light into the eye. Read more.
- Computer vision syndrome: poor ergonomics, glare from screens, blinking less often and eye strain from long hours requiring fine
focus are resulting in development of nearsightedness (myopia), astigmatism, poor eye-coordination, and ability-to-focus disorders.
In addition, sitting in the same position for hours causes neck, back and shoulder stiffness and tension headaches.
- Many doctors recommend a break every 20 minutes, especially one in which exercise, fresh air and distance focus are included.
- Computer eyeglasses are for those who wear corrective eyeglasses. They have a larger field of focus in the mid-focus range, where the computer screen is located.
- Good ergonomics include lighting, body position, and screen set-up.
- Eye exercises and acupressure relieve strain, are soothing and help eye sight to develop in a more balanced way.
- Attention to nutrients is important preventative care.
- School eye checkups are insufficient. Vision is more than seeing at 20 ft. what "should" be seen at 20 ft. Good vision includes skills in accommodation, eye movement, hand eye coordination, eye teaming, depth perception, visual memory and form perception. Also, ophthalmologists have equipment to look at the inside of the eye and can catch more serious eye diseases in their early stages when treatment and prevention is still possible.
- Behavior problems: many teens with poor grades, difficulty doing schoolwork, poor social adaptation, or trouble with drugs, alcohol or the law have seeing problems that are not diagnosed by school eye checkups. These teens often don't know they can't see as others do. They may experience print that turns into squiggly lines, double images, print that runs off the pages, headaches, dizziness, eyestrain or they may refuse to do their schoolwork or take a very long time to do simple work. Their inability to keep up with their peers ruins self-esteem and leads to poor social adaptations. Eye therapies can help behavior and learning problems. A developmental ophthalmologist can test for the visual skills required for learning and develop eye therapies to strengthen the missing skills. Some juvenile courts in the U.S. automatically assign juvenile delinquents to see a developmental ophthalmologist before deciding on a sentence.
- Myopia or nearsightedness often shows up in teen or young adult years. Studies are showing that outdoor activity reduces the incidence and the severity of myopia. Experts think the incidence of myopia has increased in recent years because of the excess of time spent on TV and computer combined with too little exercise, distance eye focus, or sunlight.
- Hereditary optic neuropathy has its onset in young men in late teens or early twenties. Typically one eye painlessly loses vision and then a few weeks later the other eye loses vision. There are many causes, some hereditary or environmental, but deficiencies of vitamin B12, proteins and folic acid, and toxins from alcohol-tobacco use are causes of concern to teen parents. B12 deficiency damages the nerves and alcoholism prevents the absorption of B12.
- Usher syndrome is a group of genetically related disorders that produce hearing and sight loss due to retinitis pigmentosa. Type two Usher affects teens who were born deaf and type three affects teens born with normal hearing but whose hearing and vision deterioration becomes evident by the teen years. There is no conventional treatment but catching it early can help the child develop alternate communication skills. Some nutrients including lutein, zeaxanthin, vinpocetine, l-lysine, and some vitamins such as vitamin A, enzymes, and fish oil may help slow down loss of vision.
- Ocular migraines are thought to be caused by a constriction of blood vessels in the retina or changes in the retina's nerve cells and could be triggered by stress, some foods such as alcohol, additives and chocolate, and eyestrain. A visual disturbance in the side vision lasts for 15 to 20 minutes followed by a headache or fatigue. These migraines are considered to be harmless with no lasting results. Magnesium supplementation may be helpful for migraines. Anti-oxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin, vinpocetine, l-lysine, a number of vitamins such as vitamin A, enzymes, and fish oil have also been shown to be helpful.
- Stargardt's disease is a type of macular degeneration whose first symptoms show up in pre-teen years when the child exhibits difficulty in reading and seeing in situations with low lighting. Vision continues to deteriorate until the teen becomes legally blind. It is a hereditary disease carried by recessive genes, which means the parents may not be affected. Scientists have isolated the gene responsible but there is no treatment as of yet. The children with Stargardt's should wear UV protective sunglasses and avoid foods and supplements with vitamin A as they experience increased retinal damage as a result of their inability to process the waste products that result from metabolized vitamin A. They should avoid leafy greens like kale, lettuce and spinach and other foods that vitamin A content such as carrots, peppers, sweet potatoes. See detailed info.
- Styes are red swollen pimple-like areas on the eyelid. They are caused by infections of the sebaceous gland and are more common among children and teens because of irregular function of the sebaceous glands and/or poor hygiene. Styes are related to acne in that they can arise or are made worse by poor digestion and improper diet (for instance fried food.) They can be treated by laying a warm wet cloth over the area and will usually clear up in two or three days. They should never be squeezed. Teens should eat plenty of fresh vegetables and stay away from soft drinks, coffee and fried food.
Good Eye Health for Teens
- Exercise ensures good blood circulation and oxygen intake, both essential to eye health. Exercise also helps keep weight in the normal range, reducing the risk of diabetes.
- Use sunglasses with UV protection
- Protective eyewear: most injuries to the eye happen to men between the ages of 13 and 40; use protective eyewear in sports and when using tools.
- Nutrition. Pay attention to nutrition; increase antioxidants.
- Checkups. Consult with an eye doctor as a preventative measure.
Good Nutrition for Teens
- Amino acids are crucial for eye health because they are building blocks for proteins. They are found in fish, milk, eggs, cheese, brussel sprout, broccoli, oats, and wheat germ. Broccoli is a great food for teens as it also contains lots of vitamin C, beta-carotene, iron, folic acid, and phytonutrients, and many who will eat no other vegetable can be persuaded to eat broccoli if it is not overcooked. It should be bright green and slightly crisp.
- Essential fatty acids support the nervous system in the retina. For teens eggs and dark leafy greens are the best source for omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids protect the cells in the eye. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid which can be taken by teens to support eye and brain development. Sardines, salmon, flax seeds, and walnuts are good sources of DHA.
- Bioflavonoids such as quercetin and rutin protect against UV sunlight exposure, and contain antioxidants to fight free radicals. Rutin is one of the nutrients noted for protecting fine capillary wall integrity in the retina. Broccoli and organic tomatoes, leafy greens, green grapes, apples, pears, cabbage and kale are good food sources.
- Carotenoids are valuable antioxidants that protect from blue light damage and help protect against eye disease. Good sources are blue fruits like bilberry, blueberry and huckleberry. The oil in fruits and vegetables (especially avocado) help in the absorption of carotenoids.
- Anti-oxidants help to clean up metabolic bi-products and scavenge free radicals, which are responsible for disease. For teens who put extra stress on their bodies nutrients such as selenium, riboflavin, zinc, and cysteine, help to promote the body's natural production of anti-oxidants. In addition vitamins A and E are antioxidants. Selenium is found in whole grains, seafood, Brazil nuts, zinc is found in red meat, lobster, seeds, nuts and wheat germs. Cysteine is an amino acid found in meat, whey, cottage cheese, red peppers, onions, oats, broccoli, lentils. Vitamin A is in kale, spinach, peppers, dandelion greens. Vitamin E is found in wheat germ oil, sunflower and safflower oils.
- Vitamin D and sunlight. Teens need sunlight but can wear sun glasses that protect against UV rays. Vitamin D is also found in eggs and dairy products as well as fortified milk and cereals.
- Lutein is the yellow pigment in the macula which controls central vision. It defends against a variety of vision conditions and eye diseases, and protects the rods and cones in the macula from free radical damage from UV light. Lutein is found in leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collard greens, mustard, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and in yellow foods such as corn and eggs.
Juicing for Teens
How do we get nine helpings a day of fresh fruit and vegetables into a growing teenager who is often too busy to sit down for a meal?
Fresh fruit and vegetable juices provide a quick and concentrated source of nutrients. Daily juicing of primarily organic vegetables and fruits is an essential part of any long term healing program and a highly effective and efficient way for the body to absorb essential nutrients into the blood and cells. Fresh juices satisfy hunger because they provide nutrients. They help prevent obesity by breaking the junk food syndrome where non nutritious snacks make the teen ever more hungry. Fresh leafy greens, carrots, sweet potatoes, onion, garlic, and peppers make a spicy combination. Or replace the spices with blueberries, apples or melon for a refreshing and nutritious sweet snack.
1. Viewing distance and eyestrain symptoms with prolonged viewing of smartphones. Long J et. al., Clinical and Experimental Optometry, March 2017.
2. Smartphone viewing distance and sleep: an experimental study utilizing motion capture technology. Yoshimura M. et. al., Nature and Science of Sleep, March. 2017.