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With Nearsightedness On The Rise, Experts Provide Advice On Slowing Progression

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Nearsightedness is going up at an alarming rate across the country and the world, and many people blame too much touchscreen time for kids on phones, tablets and computers.

CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reported it's not that simple. But still, there are some ways to combat the vision problem.

Myopia is more than cosmetic problem that requires wearing glasses or contacts. It puts a person at risk for a number of eye problems, from cataracts to glaucoma and even detached retinas.

Vision professionals are concerned because the incidence of myopia is increasing and getting worse.

Mia and Aaron Artsen are siblings who both started having problems with their vision at a pretty typical age.

"In second grade in the middle of the year, I couldn't see the board," said Mia, 10.

Aaron, 11, had the same problem in class and said: "In baseball, I also had trouble. Whenever like a pitch was coming, it was blurry and I couldn't see the ball."

Normally, myopia progresses gradually and stabilizes in early adulthood. But Mia and Aaron were both getting worse – quickly.

"In Aaron's follow-up, his eyes got worse, and Mia's were even worse than Aaron's," said their mother, Maria Garcia.

The Artsen kids have a lot of company in the U.S. and across the world.

"The numbers of people that are nearsighted are extraordinary. In the United States, it's gone up to about 45 percent of the population, and there are estimates that by 2050, half the world's population will be nearsighted," said Dr. David Troilo of SUNY College of Optometry.

Not surprisingly, parents tend to blame all the time the kids spend looking at electronics these days – phones, tablets, TVs and computers. Screen time may be a factor, partly for too much close-up focusing, but also because it is all done indoors.

"What's special about outdoors is not quite well-known yet," Troilo said. "It could be the intensity of the light outside, which is much higher than it is indoors. It could also be the makeup of the light."

There are several techniques that can slow the progression of myopia. Certain eyedrops as well as special contact lenses and glasses are options – the contacts that Mia and Aaron use actually reshape the cornea at night.

But more importantly, they can slow down the progress of myopia.

"The contact lenses and the progressive glasses, they project a different image stimuli to the periphery of your eyesight, and that peripheral stimuli has been shown to slow down the myopia progression," said Dr. Xiaoying Zhu of the SUNY College of Optometry.

There are also genetic reasons for myopia, of course – it does tend to run in families. But experts advise to help your kids, get them to spend time outside.

The time does not require playing sports or even being that active – just reading a book outside in the sunlight seems to help.

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