Increased digital screen time cited as risk factor
It has been almost a year and a half that children have been at home, and the idea of education or entertainment is centered around digital screens. This means they are spending more time staring into mobile phones. Citing this unprecedented situation, ophthalmologists say they are seeing an increase in cases of Myopia (near sightedness) among children under 15 years since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.
The specialist doctors from Dr Agarwals Eye Hospital say more cases of ‘squint-eye’ is also being observed in children. “Our figures show that there is a 100% increase in annual myopia progression and a five-fold increase in annual squint-eye cases among children of 5-15 years during the pandemic year,” says Palak Macwana, consultant ophthalmologist at the private hospital.
Dr. Macwana adds that during the lockdown period, getting work done involved computers, laptops, and mobile phones or tablets, which was taken up without frequent breaks. Screen time for academic or other purposes increased substantially. This visual stress could be a cause for squinting and has an accelerating effect on myopia progression.
Consultant opthalmologist T. Srinivas opines the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in accelerating the problem. Since keeping oneself and family members was the ultimate priority, people held themselves back from going for general consultation with doctors, including opthalmologists.
“Since children had to skip consultations with opthalmologists , some of them continued to use spectacles with inadequate power which put strain on eyes. This further increased refractive error (eye sight power). Increased usage of digital screens without taking breaks compounded the problem. Dimensions of eye ball changes until one reaches the age of 21 except in a few cases. Usually, eyesight power changes in the growing age. Usage of spectacles with inadequate power and spending excess time staring into digital screens could lead to further changes in eyesight power,” explains Dr Srinivas.
Attending online classes cannot be avoided currently. So Dr Macwana suggests that children use laptops or desktops instead of mobile phones as the distance between eyes and bigger screens is more. Exposure to sunlight for one to two hours a day including outdoor games, along with a healthy and well-balanced diet, is recommended.
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