Ophthalmologists from Dr. Agarwals Eye Hospital in the city have reported seeing a one-third rise in cases of myopia in children in recent months due to pandemic-induced lifestyle and excessive screen time. The risk of developing Myopia (‘near-sightedness’) among young ones has risen manifold as millions of students are exerting their eyes using remote learning methods due to closure of schools in COVID times.
Said Dr. Neera Kanjani, Consultant Ophthalmologist, Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Hospital, Ahmedabad: “In these pandemic times, pediatric myopia has emerged as a public health challenge. We are seeing one-third rise in cases of myopia in children in recent months. While in pre-pandemic times, we used to diagnose every four out of ten walk-in children at our hospital with myopia, this figure has now increased to six. Also, children who were already wearing reading glasses before the pandemic are now being prescribed thicker glasses, as we are finding a spike of -1 to -2 diopters in their myopia.”
She added: “Another worrying sign is that about 20% of children coming to our eye hospital complaining about problems in reading text are already suffering from high myopia, even though they have not worn glasses before. Parents say on an average the children are spending about 6 to 8 hours in front of digital screens every day attending online classes and tuitions, or otherwise. Apart from myopia, we are diagnosing astigmatism (cross-cylinder power), hypermetropia (farsightedness), squinting of eyes and infective or allergic conjunctivitis in kids”
Dr. Neera Kanjani said: “A lot of children and college teens are complaining about irritation of eyes, blurred vision, frequent headaches and double vision. The primary reason is focusing on a bright screen for hours without a break. The children are now reporting eye symptoms that were usually reported by adults previously. The daily behavior pattern of children has got altered due to habits developed in the pandemic like online classes, binge-watching TV shows and playing video games on hours, especially on a small screen. A nutritious and balanced diet, added time for outdoor play, and limiting screen time can help tackle these problems effectively.”
Myopia can be both developed or inherited from parents. Parents suffering from nearsightedness need to keep a constant check on their young ones sight, as they have higher chances of developing the problem. Thought myopia is not reversible, prescription glasses can be used. Dr. Neera Kanjani explained, “The goal of the treatment is to improve a child’s vision and prevent it from getting any worse. At times, diluted atropine drops are prescribed to prevent the progression of myopia. The condition, if left unattended, poses a risk of retinal detachment and glaucoma. To avoid this, annual eye checkups are recommended.”
Dr. Agarwals Eye Hospital is offers consulting services for kids by charging only 50% of the fee till the end of January 2022.