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Health and Disease

Poor Eyesight: Why Does It Happen and What Makes It Better/Worse?

This article explores the commonality of poor eyesight among the general population and why such conditions have become more prominent in recent years. It also investigates potential factors which can better or worsen eyesight and suggests ways to avoid further damage to one of the most highly developed human sensory organs.

By Yesha Shukla

Published 11:26 EST, Thurs October 21st, 2021

Introduction 

Poor eyesight is becoming a common, widespread issue across the globe. Individuals are developing problems related to vision ranging from severe eye conditions to slight impairment more often than ever. Though some visual impairments are not correctable, the most common forms–such as errors of refraction–are. However, before such treatments for poor eyesight can be investigated, a solid understanding of where vision impairments stem must be understood.

Understanding Poor Eyesight 

In comparison to the other four key senses, a larger part of the brain is dedicated to vision, making it one of the most highly developed sensory organs. This not only makes vision a key component of the body, but also one of the most vulnerable. 

The most common forms of vision impairment are errors of refraction, which are when light rays fail to focus inside the eye and, thus, transfer blurry images to the brain. Examples of errors of refraction include nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. However, not to worry, such vision impairments are typically correctable using glasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery- LASIK, Photorefractive keratectomy, or Implantable Collamer Lenses.

Furthermore, another common form of poor eyesight is eye strain. This occurs when individuals overuse their eyes for an extensive period of time and can also be due to an uncorrected refractive problem. Eyestrain may occur while performing distant visual activities or prolonged focusing (driving, watching a movie, reading, computer use, etc). Eyestrain is not common among children due to their flexible focusing capacity, however, if the eyes are not given adequate rest, adults may experience its effects through headaches, brow aches, eye fatigue, or a pulling sensation. Additionally, experiencing these symptoms while wearing glasses could indicate the need for an eye prescription change. 

Other forms of vision problems often relate to eye disease. Examples of such include retinal detachment, macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. These can lead to blurry or defective vision and require surgery for correction.  

How Common Is The Problem? 

These vision impairments are not uncommon among individuals worldwide. At least 2.2 billion people have poor eyesight, 1 billion of which could have been prevented or have yet to be addressed. Such unaddressed vision impairments are most common in low and middle-income regions as the statistics report about 4 times as many cases like that of high-income regions. In some areas, eye care needs are greater in rural areas but the services are in urban hospitals, leading to low accessibility. Furthermore, eye conditions are projected to worsen in the future due to the aging population, genetics, ethnicity, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Thus, it is crucial to limit the chance of such a situation by understanding what makes eyesight worse and what can help it improve.   

What 4 Key Practices Impact Vision Negatively? 

An excess amount of screentime is one of the most widely known factors that impair vision. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), the average American spends seven hours a day on their digital device and 58% of adults have experienced digital eye strain as a result. Additionally, according to Common Sense Media’s 2019 Census, eight to twelve-year-olds spend five hours on digital media. These individuals, especially if they spend more than two continuous hours using a digital screen, have a much greater risk of eye strain. This can be very damaging to the eyes and is often the most common cause of worsening vision problems.

Wearing contact lenses incorrectly is another common cause of impaired vision. The AOA found that 90% of the 45 million contact lens wearers in the US don’t follow proper hygiene instructions. ⅓ wear non-overnight contacts while sleeping, which can lead to inflammation, dry eye, pain, blurry vision, and light sensitivity. These all deprive the eyes of oxygen and can worsen eyesight as a whole. Furthermore, many also wear contact lenses in the shower or pool, leading to bacteria getting into the eyes and ultimately causing an infection. 

Next, not wearing sunglasses to protect from UV radiation causes both long and short-term damage. Just one day at the beach without eye protection can lead to photokeratitis– or sunburn of the eye– which can be temporary, but very painful. Long-term damage from UV rays can lead to the formation of cataracts and pterygium which causes abnormal covering on the white of the eye, impairing vision for a lifetime. There is also a risk for cancer on the eyelids, the skin around the eye, or the eye itself. Additionally, children’s eyes are much more vulnerable to damage from sunlight because their eye lenses cannot filter such UV rays easily, causing damage to the retina. The AOA reports that the average child is exposed to three times the annual UV exposure of an adult and 80% of such exposure occurs before the age of 20. 

Finally, the heavy use of eye drops is a common cause of vision impairment. Though it may seem to be helping the eye, this washes away natural tears. Prolonged use of eye drops can cause dependency on them, leading to the eye being unable to self-moisturize and protect its delicate layers. The glands can also get clogged because they will not secrete the proper oils to hold tears in place. In relation, whitening eye drops used to get red out of the eye can decrease blood flow, preventing oxygen from getting into the eye. In turn, the blood vessels can grow enlarged and become even redder due to their inability to deliver oxygen. 

What 4 Key Practices Impact Vision Positively?

Just as crucial as understanding what worsens vision is understanding what can better it. However, there is no specific method for improving vision directly without the use of corrective measures. This is because eye shape determines the level of refractive error and this cannot change with exercises or eye training. Thus, there is only one possible way to improve eyesight: to naturally improve the way in which the brain and eyes work together by improving eye health and, therefore, vision as a whole.

Eating a balanced and healthy diet rich in antioxidants and vitamin A–such as leafy vegetables, carrots, or fish–is incredibly important. Such foods slow down age-related vision loss by strengthening connections between the brain and the eyes. Getting enough sleep can also aid in bettering vision as by being tired, the eyes get strained easily and feel dry and gritty. Exercising regularly has shown signs of enhancing circulation of blood and oxygen flow to the eyes, decreasing dry eyes, and preventing vision loss. Protecting the eyes from UV rays and practicing good eye hygiene are also especially important. Washing the hands and face thoroughly and regularly and keeping cosmetics and other chemicals outside of the eyes can prevent potential damage. Lastly, taking breaks from screen time is essential. The AOA suggests looking 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds at a time to prevent eye strain. 

Conclusion 

As a whole, eye conditions are very common among the current population and the best thing that can be done to prevent them is to make healthy life choices from a young age and see the eye doctor regularly. Taking care of the eyes is crucial and must be prioritized more often to avoid more individuals causing damage to their vision. 

Yesha Shukla, Youth Medical Journal 2021

References 

Seltman, Whitney. “Understanding Vision Problems — the Basics.” WebMD, WebMD, 7 Feb. 2020, http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/understanding-vision-problems-basics.

All About Vision Editorial Team. “7 Everyday Things That Can Hurt Your Eyes.” All About Vision, All About Vision, 7 Sep. 2021, http://www.allaboutvision.com/eye-care/things-that-hurt-your-vision/.

NVISION. “How to Improve Eyesight Naturally (& Safely).” NVISION Eye Centers, NVISION, 23 Dec. 2020, http://www.nvisioncenters.com/improve-eyesight/.

World Health Organization. “World Report on Vision.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 8 Oct. 2019, http://www.who.int/publications-detail-redirect/9789241516570. 

By Yesha Shukla

Yesha Shukla is a student at Dulaney High School in Maryland, United States. She is interested in the fields of family medicine, pediatric radiology, and maternal fetal medicine.

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