Treatment Helping Kids Who Develop Nearsightedness From Electronic Devices

PITTSBURGH (CBS) — From smartphones to tablets and everything in between, doctors say looking at electronic devices all the time is causing something called digital eye strain. And that’s leading to permanent eye damage for more and more kids.

Children are battling nearsightedness, or myopia, younger and younger.

“I kept telling my teacher, ‘I can’t see the board. I can’t see the board,’” patient Jacklyn McCauley said.

Jacklyn was diagnosed nearsighted six years ago

“The day I got the glasses, I went home, put them on, and I was like, ‘I can see something in the backyard,’” she said.

But within two years, even with glasses, that crystal clear vision faded. The more she used digital devices, the less she could see.

“I’d go in and get a stronger prescription for glasses, and I feel like after three months I’d be going back to the eye doctor saying I still can’t see, it’s getting worse,” Jacklyn said.

“If she stays on this path, what’s it going to be like when she’s a senior in high school heading off to college?” said her mother, Debra McCauley.

So, the McCauleys turned to child vision specialist, Dr. Nate Bonilla-Warford.

“I kind of tell patients, it’s a one-way street. Once you get it, you’ve got it,” he says of the condition.

While myopia is permanent, a treatment called orthokeratology stops the progression.

“It provides clear, 20/20 vision all day without glasses or daytime contacts by wearing a contact lens at night,” said Dr. Bonilla-Warford.

It is now Jacklyn’s bedtime routine.

She pops in a hard contact lens, and as she sleeps, it gently reshapes her cornea. When she wakes up, she takes them out.

“You can instantly see everything, and it’s really nice,” Jacklyn said

Because of Ortho-K, she can make it through the entire day without glasses or contacts.

Dr. Bonilla-Warford says right now this is the safe solution for all ages. His youngest patient is just 6-years-old.

“I know in other countries there are patients that are even younger,” he says.

He says Ortho-K is key to start when nearsightedness develops.

It will stop your eyesight from getting worse and reduce the risk of going blind.

“Kids like it because they don’t have to wear the glasses, and they can have the freedom to see all the things they want. But parents like it because if their vision doesn’t tend to change, then they’re less worried about these future problems,” Dr. Bonilla-Warford said.

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“It can halt it and it actually reversed the progression a bit. So her eyesight is better now than when he first started the treatment with her,” said Jacklyn’s mom.

Jacklyn doesn’t see a future where she isn’t glued to a digital device, but she knows it doesn’t have to be the end of her vision.

“I can see everything crystal-clear right now. It’s amazing,” she says.

For those wondering about Lasik, doctors don’t recommend that for kids or teenagers since our eyes don’t stop developing until our 20s. While Lasik will help you see more clearly, it will not reduce the risk of developing diseases that can lead to blindness.

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