Many practitioners and researchers seem more than happy to ignore the effects of excessive close work on the visual system. Studies continue to emerge claiming that there is no relationship between close work and nearsightedness (myopia). The vast majority of eye care providers are simply uninterested in the entire debate.
Behavioral optometrists have observed, evaluated and treated the relationship between close work and nearsightedness (as well as a number of other visual conditions) in their practices for over 80 years. We have seen the entire situation worsen over the course of those years. We have seen more and more people succumb to these effects, and we have seen the degree to which they succumb worsen on a case by case basis without, or prior to treatment.
Many behavioral optometrists are consistently successful at preventing nearsightedness as well as reversing it. We are also, in many cases, able to slow the progression. This is often done by prescribing lenses and/or vision therapy – and this approach is at least, if not more, successful than the numerous (more medically oriented) approaches that have suddenly emerged over the past few years.
Before I go any further it should be noted that, as far as our eyes and brains are concerned, the typical modern human is engaged in excessive near work just by living a normal life. All of the reading for school, many jobs, etc. is something the human visual system finds unnatural. Our visual systems were not designed for all of this close work.
Nearsightedness, though probably the most common, is not the only visual problem associated with, or resulting from, excessive near work. Some of the other consequences of close work include headaches, neck pain, eye pain, eye fatigue, dry eyes, double vision, etc.
A Case In Point
Dave came in complaining of intermittent, but fairly frequent double vision, which typically results from the brain struggling to integrate the two eyes. At first it happened only when he was tired, but had been worsening for a year before he called me. A new lens prescription and vision therapy had led to some improvement.
Dave recently resumed vision therapy after a 10-day vacation during which he had decided to leave his computer at home. His first vision therapy session after returning was quite interesting. Therapy activities that would typically expose his double vision instead showed that he was using his two eyes in the most integrated way we had seen since he first came to me for help. It would be fair to wonder whether this tremendous, and fairly sudden, change would have happened merely as a result of his computer-free vacation, or if the main reason for this excellent change was the change in the way he had been using lenses and his several months of vision therapy.
It will be no surprise that I believe that the work Dave had been doing in the months before his vacation was an important factor. We had been working hard on improving the quality and endurance of Dave’s eye teaming. In fact, there had been steady improvement over the course of our work together. I also have little doubt that taking such a significant break from visual “abuse” was helpful.
We obviously cannot avoid doing much of the close work we do, and we are mostly unwilling to forego much that we do not need to do. Our iPads, phones, etc. as too tempting. What we can do is stack the deck in our favor by having the appropriate lenses and vision care provided by behavioral optometry. It is easy to find a behavioral optometrist near you. You’ll be glad you did.