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Is your phone reshaping your eyes?

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FOX 17 News Investigates the “Elongated Eyeball Theory" and why some doctors say our devices are changing the shape of our eyes.

We ask a lot of our eyes each day, and most of us never think about how hard our phones are on them. Neither did mom Anna Martinez

“I started to see her grades fall down in kindergarten," Martinez said. "As soon as we got the glasses, her grades came up.”

Martinez is talking about fifth grade daughter Mariah Mendoza.

“I can’t see far," Mariah said. "It's kind of blurry.”

Myopia or nearsightedness is what Mariah has, and it’s a condition that’s doubled with this generation. More kids and younger kids are needing glasses.

Dr. Ming Wang, owner of the Wang Vision Institute, has this observation.

"You go to restaurant, and you see everybody is looking at this,' Wang said. "Everybody is looking at this. You go to dinner, everybody is looking at this. You go to public place, everybody is looking at this and you say that dramatic change of behavior must have some consequence.”

Many studies show it does affecting half of young adults in the U.S. and Europe. That’s twice as many than 50 years ago.

“That's a pretty large amount of people, and it's even going to get worse and worse the more they're on their gadgets," Anna Martinez said.

Research estimates show having the world at our fingertips will mean a third of the world will have myopia by 2020. That’s about 2.5 billion people.

One of the world's leading myopia researchers, Australia's Dr. Padmaja Sankaridurg, said we're on a path toward what she calls a "myopia epidemic."

“The school started seeing more kids needing glasses," Martinez said.

Dr. Wang said we don't really know what the end result will be.

“It's absolutely true because of the cell phone eye syndrome, which is an established scientific problem, we're only beginning to see the tip of the iceberg," Wang said.

Here’s why. The closer we hold our devices, the harder our eyes have to work to maintain this fixed focal length and the more long term damage we can cause. Doctors say just like any part of the body we over use, the faster it wears out.

Researchers say the eye actually starts to change shape to grow, elongating when we constantly focus on near object.

This structural change, which stretches the retina, makes you more at risk for retinal detachment later in life and glaucoma. For middle aged people, this practice can also speed up presbyopia, where you suddenly can't read things close up.

“The light comes in and the lens can not change shape," Wang said. "It can not focus light onto the retina.”

An easy solution is to adopt the 20, 20, 20 eye care habit. This means you look at your cell phone or computer for 20 minutes. Then, take a break for 20 seconds, and stop and look at something 20 feet away for that 20 seconds.

Not much pay off it seems in focusing on your phone for hours at a time although, Martinez said with a laugh.

“Yes, it will be more money for optometrists and ophthalmologists," Martinez said.

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