Near Point Visual Stress (NPVS)

Dr. Russel Lazarus, January 23, 2021
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Modern science now understands why long hours of reading and screen time can lead to eye strain.

When the visual system struggles to meet the demands that reading and learning place on the eyes, symptoms like fatigue, eye strain and headaches can surface— this is known as near point visual stress (NPVS).

Learning requires a range of visual skills that help the brain interpret and process visual information. 

The visual skills are essential for all aspects of learning. When a child has a functional vision problem, or more specifically, a problem with his visual skills, the eyes have to exert increased effort in order to accomplish the learning task.

The modern-day classroom relies heavily on technology. Unfortunately, the days of venturing outdoors to make new discoveries are a thing of the past.

As a result, children are expected to concentrate at their desks for longer periods of time and perform a variety of near vision tasks— which now also includes the use of a tablet or computer in most classrooms.

Moreover, homework completion, as well as any “down-time” a child has, usually involves the use of a digital device.

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How is vision affected?

When a child with reduced visual skills is exposed to prolonged near vision activities, they will begin to experience visual side effects, including:

  • Attentional difficulties
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye strain
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

What causes NPVS?

When a child sits in front of the computer or TV screen for too long, or spends hours each day playing video games or scrolling through social media on their smartphone, symptoms of NPVS may appear.

The stress placed on the visual system alerts the nervous system to react with a “fight or flight” response, which can lead to vision problems as well as behavioral and attentional issues.

Common reactions to near point visual stress include:

  • Myopia progression
  • Binocular vision difficulties
  • Focusing difficulties
  • Reduced concentration for reading tasks
  • Anxiety
  • Reduced self esteem
  • Depression

What can you do to help your child? 

Encourage your child to take breaks

An effective way to relieve and even prevent NPVS is to provide your child with “visual stress relief” from their digital devices.

This can be achieved by practicing the 20-20-20 rule which encourages taking breaks from a near vision activity every 20 minutes by looking at an object that is 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

Visit your eye doctor

It is crucial to schedule an eye exam and functional vision evaluation if your child is showing any signs of NPVS.

With a comprehensive evaluation, your eye doctor can detect signs of myopia progression, convergence insufficiency, or accommodative insufficiency— all vision problems that can affect your child’s academic success.

Myopia management

If your child’s myopia is progressing, your eye doctor can prescribe an effective myopia management treatment to help control and even reduce their myopia.

Vision therapy

Vision therapy is an effective treatment for binocular vision difficulties, such as convergence insufficiency, and focusing difficulties, such as accommodative dysfunction.

Your eye doctor can also prescribe a program of vision therapy to help strengthen your child’s visual skills and improve their vision for all near vision tasks.

 

Near point visual stress is a common problem that affects many children nowadays— and has become a growing concern among many eyecare professionals. 

If your child is showing signs of NPVS, or complaining of any changes to their vision, schedule an appointment with an eye doctor.

Your child’s reading and learning success begins with clear and comfortable vision.