The most common eye problems during teenage years are due to the development and progression of short sight (myopia). If you have problems focusing on things in the distance, you will find it harder to follow lessons in the classroom and you may also find it harder than your friends to do well during after-school sports and activities.
Sitting for hours in front of a computer screen playing games, Facebooking or Tweeting may also stress your eyes because your computer forces your eyes to focus and strain a lot more than during any other task. This can put you at an even greater risk than adults for developing symptoms of ‘computer vision syndrome’, which may lead to the early development of myopia. If you are constantly switching between focusing close-up on your smartphone or kindle and looking up at the TV in the distance, your eyes have to work much, much harder.
Regular eye tests
The best way to protect your young and healthy vision is with regular professional eye examinations with your local optometrist (eye exams are free for all under 16s). You may be at special risk for eye problems if your mum or dad has eye disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or poor vision – so it’s important to answer any questions about this carefully. In between examinations, if you notice a change in your vision or your eye is injured in any way, ask your parents to contact your opticians or do so yourself.
The best way to keep your eyes healthy is to get plenty of rest, and eat foods rich in antioxidants – these are vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that protect and repair cells from damage caused by free radicals. You should also take special care when applying make-up and hairspray, and wash your hands often to help keep your eyes free of germs and bacteria that may cause eye infections. This is especially important if you wear contact lenses (see later).
Protection against eye injuries
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that teenagers are in the highest risk category for serious eye injuries, especially when playing racquet sports like tennis or squash. Always wear sports goggles or shields for proper eye protection. Many goggles can actually improve your sports vision whether you need vision correction or not. New technology lenses give you the edge you need by reducing glare, enhancing contrast and substantially reducing exposure to UVA and UVB rays. Your optician can help you to choose the right eye protection for your sports and activities.
Contact lenses for teenagers
Teenage years might be a good time to consider contact lenses. According to the British Contact Lens Association, contact lenses for teens and children have many advantages including:
- Better vision and more convenience for sports and leisure activities
- Improved appearance and social acceptance
- Avoidance of spectacles breakages
- Greater self-confidence, self-esteem and satisfaction
- Full-time vision correction – and they can be easily updated when your eyesight may be changing frequently
- Added protection from ultraviolet (UV) exposure with some lenses.
Another option for correcting myopia without glasses you might consider is a process called ‘orthokeratology’ or ‘ortho-k’. This relatively new technique involves sleeping in special rigid gas permeable contact lenses to change the shape of the cornea overnight, so that you can see without glasses or contact lenses during the day. Young people aged between eight and 12 are also considered to be good candidates, and parents might be interested too. Ask your optometrist about ortho-k when you next see them.