Getting your kid a video game this holiday? Vision concerns answered.

Photo courtesy of Chiew Pang

Photo courtesy of Chiew Pang on Flickr

With the holiday season in full effect, you can bet that many kids will be receiving a video game or a new system in the next few weeks.  In fact, one million PlayStation 4 consoles were sold in North America in the first 24 hours of its recent launch.  Sadly, I was not one of those lucky ones.

Since the dawn of the television age, parents have been wondering “How much is too much?”  After home video games were introduced, the question became even more relevant.  Below you will find some of the most common concerns parents have and how to address each issue.

1) Will video games ruin my kid’s eyes?  Certainly, overuse of the visual system, especially up close, can lead to eyestrain, fatigue, redness of the eyes, and eye rubbing, but it cannot be stated conclusively that video games will directly lead to permanent damage.

2) How much time should I let my kids play video games?  20 minutes of game play followed by a break is plenty.  As for how much cumulative time per day, you are the best judge – but at our house we have a maximum of one hour of screen time daily.  Then again, I must be fairly conservative because a recent study stated that 85% of kids use an electronic device up to four hours a day.

3) Are video games good for anything?  Besides allowing you to have some fun with your kids, a recent study demonstrated that some video games can improve hand-eye coordination.  Also, in young children who have parental participation, certain video games can improve literacy.

Photo courtesy of Rob Blatt

Photo courtesy of Rob Blatt on Flickr

So, while allowing your child to play Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty 24/7 may be a lousy idea,  a small amount gaming with your child can be a good thing.  Remember, about 60% of video game titles are rated “E” for everyone, so let’s have some fun!

~David Ardaya, OD
California Optometric Association
www.coavision.org

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Color blindness – the causes and the effects

When we think of someone being color blind, we may think that he sees the world in black and white, or shades of gray.  But that is extremely rare.  In fact, almost 8% of men have some form of color vision deficiency where certain colors are more difficult to distinguish, or do not appear as vivid as other colors.  (Perhaps that explains the questionable wardrobe choices my husband sometimes makes.)

What causes it?

Most cases of color vision deficiency are inherited and passed down from the mom.  The photoreceptors in the retina responsible for color are called cones.  Each cone is sensitive to a certain color, in particular, red, green or blue.  If a person has inherited a recessive gene that causes one or more of the cones to be absent or to not function properly, then he will have abnormal color perception.

Photo courtesy of entirelysubjective on Flickr

Photo courtesy of entirelysubjective on Flickr

Some cases of color vision deficiency are acquired later in life as a result of a disease.  More common causative diseases are glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetes.  If you notice a change in your color vision, make sure to be evaluated by your optometrist. For eyecare providers, we tend to distinguish color vision deficiency into two broad categories.  Red-green and blue-yellow.  Red-green is inherited and the most common deficiency.  Those with this defect can still see red and green, but the colors are more difficult to distinguish and they may not appear as vivid as to the normal eye.  For example, red and green signal lights may look the same.  One may appear brighter but the lights may both look white.  (For this reason, I’m not a fan of the horizontal traffic lights in some smaller towns.)  Most people who have color vision deficiency have a mild form and are not disabled by this condition.

The other form of color deficiency is blue-yellow where patients have a difficult time distinguishing blue from green or yellow from violet.  This is less common and is usually caused by certain eye diseases.  Unfortunately, for many of these patients, color deficiency is just one visual problem among others.  These patients may also suffer from dimming of vision or distortion of vision.  Often times, bright lighting is helpful for these patients, and occasionally tinted lenses. 

How can I help someone that’s color deficient?

Of course, a comprehensive eye examination is important to rule out any causes of color vision deficiency other than genetics.  This also helps to determine the severity.  Most color deficient individuals carry on like normal without it interfering with their daily lives.  A helpful tip would be to not use the colors red and green as markers because the two colors may appear very similar.  Blue and red will be easier to distinguish.  Unfortunately, those with color vision deficiency should avoid careers that require distinguishing color differences such as airplane pilots, paint mixer, interior designer, etc.

Recently, new developments in tinted lenses have been able to allow some color vision deficient patients be able to see colors they have never seen before.  Sounds promising!

~Cindy P. Wang, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org