In an age when many teens spend most of their day in front of screens and don’t eat nearly enough fruits and vegetables, teenage eye health is a matter of concern for many parents.

From excessive screen time to dry eye syndrome in teenagers, today we review some of the most common threats to teenage eye health.

We also offer some science-backed solutions that can help keep teenagers’ eyes healthy. As a parent, there’s a lot you can do to protect your teen’s eyes. Let’s start with the facts.

Too Much Screen Time Is a Problem

Teens spend up to 9 hours in front of screens every day according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). Prolonged screen time has been associated with eyestrain, blurred vision, and dry eye disease.

It also has a host of other detrimental physical and psychological effects, from weight gain to difficulties concentrating and even depression.

Limiting screen time for a teenager can be more difficult than limiting screen time for a child. What’s more, many teenagers today use smartphones, tablets, and computers for schoolwork.

teenage girl with pencil in one hand and notebook before her studying in front of computer screen

Being a good role model yourself in how you manage screen time could be more helpful than simply telling them to stop using screens.

Limit your own screen time at home and establish no-screen hours such as dinner that the whole family abide by.

Set up trips, outings, and other outdoor activities you can involve your teens in. You may also want to have at least one screen-free day a week.

Teenagers Are at Risk of Developing Specific Eye Diseases

Teenagers can develop many eye diseases including myopia, farsightedness, astigmatism, digital eye strain, vernal keratoconjunctivitis, keratoconus, juvenile diabetic retinopathy, photokeratitis, dry eye disease, and Stargardt disease, a type of juvenile macular degeneration.

Some of these conditions are uncomfortable and can be corrected with treatment. Others can threaten vision. Catching them early may open more avenues for treatment and possibly improve prognosis.

Dry Eye Disease in Teens Is Common

While children don’t usually develop dry eye disease, a condition that’s usually associated with age, dry eyes in teens can occur.

Prolonged screen time interferes with normal blinking rates and may also make children eat less healthy meals and sleep more poorly. Added together, these factors can impact the normal functioning of the tear glands.

Dry eye symptoms in teens include gritty eyes, eye rubbing, and redness in the eye. A feeling of having sand in the eye that you can’t blink away can also indicate dry eye disease.

The good news is that the same simple home remedies for dry eyes that work for adults also work for teens. We devoted an entire post to home remedies for dry eye syndrome – check it out.

A Healthy Diet Can Make a Big Difference

In 2017, only 7.1% of adolescents in the United States ate enough fruits and only 2% ate enough vegetables according to the US Department of Agriculture fruit intake recommendations.

These recommendations are 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables for males aged 14 to 18 years and 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables for females in the same age group.

A healthy diet for the eyes contains plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are rich in nutrients including antioxidants and vitamins. Together, these keep the eyes healthy by protecting them from free radicals that can damage them.

crates of colorful vegetables and fruits in a marketplace stall seen from an angle with people in the background

Fruits and vegetables also have fiber, which slows down sugar absorption and creates a feeling of fullness in the stomach. By doing so, they can ward off extra weight and the health risks that come with it, including juvenile diabetic retinopathy.

Getting adolescents to follow a healthy diet can be challenging in a world in which fast food and processed foods are often more readily available and convenient. Again, setting a good example can make everything easier.

Try to prepare healthy meals at home including whole grains, lean protein, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats like olive oil. Find out more in our post on healthy foods for the eyes.

In addition to a varied diet, you may also want to encourage your children to take an eye health supplement.

Natural supplements like the SightC superfood blend and Blueberry Monk Fruit Gummies provide the eyes with lutein, zeaxanthin, and other antioxidants and nutrients that the eyes need to stay healthy.

They are sugar-free, easy to take, and can be incorporated into any type of diet. Learn more about SightSage eye health supplements.

The Eyes Need Good Sleep to Stay Healthy

Lack of sleep can cause more than puffy eyes or dark circles under the eyes. It can lead to dry, itchy eyes that don’t produce enough tears and that are more sensitive to infections. Twitching, blurriness, and light sensitivity may also occur.

Sleep heals body tissues and clear toxins from the body. This is true of the eyes as well. It also plays a role in regulating metabolism. When you are sleep deprived, your body and your eyes don’t have time to recover.

Poor quality sleep has even been linked to a higher risk of developing glaucoma. It can also contribute to dry eye disease.

teenage boy napping on couch while embracing large chemistry book

Extended screen time, the stresses of school, and the hormonal time shift that occurs during adolescence can all make it difficult to sleep as a teenager.

To safeguard your teen’s eye health, it’s important to notice if they are constantly not getting enough sleep. Encourage physical activity and more outdoor time, limit caffeine, and reduce screen time at night.

Good sleeping habits can't be developed overnight so it’s important to have patience.

Time in the Sun Is Good for the Eyes

Research mentioned in the New York Times shows that teenagers who spend more time in the sun are less likely to develop myopia by middle age. Sunlight can also ward off depression and boost the immune system.

It’s true for adults too, so why not make walks, runs, or hikes a habit for you and your adolescent child?

At the same time, it’s important to remember that teenagers are vulnerable to UV radiation, which can cause conditions such as photokeratitis. Encourage your teenager to wear sunglasses outdoors even on overcast days.

Also, make sure that the sunglasses they are using are of good quality and provide at least 99.9% UV protection.

The Wrap Up

Teenagers can easily neglect eye health, and rightfully so – so many things are happening during the teenage years (school, love, and just growing up) that eye health may not seem like a priority. It’s up to parents, guardians, and teachers to gently bring these things up.

Simple things go a long way when it comes to teenage eye health. It all starts with reducing screen time, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and spending time outdoors in the sun. Wearing sunglasses outside, taking eye health supplements, and going for regular eye checkups are also important.

Healthy vision is a gift, and it starts with healthy eyes. It’s a gift you can help your teenagers take into adulthood by being yourself a role model when it comes to eye health.

Look after your own eyes as you’d like your teens to look after theirs. That way, you can have a lasting impact on how teens approach eye health.

family with teenagers and grandmother enjoying a meal outside in the garden

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