Pandemic Causing Eye Problems in Kids


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Nearsightedness, also called myopia, is on the rise in kids. Many experts say more time in front of screens and less time outdoors is to blame for this trend. As Ivanhoe explains, the COVID pandemic may have added to the already growing problem.

The COVID quarantine has meant isolation and boredom for kids. And this is a familiar scene for many families.

But all that screen time may be leading to more cases of nearsightedness. That’s when you can see things up close but not far away. In the U.S., only 25 percent of the population suffered from nearsightedness in the 70’s. Today, it’s 42 percent! Experts say one big reason is kids are getting less natural sunlight. Focusing your eyes in the daylight can delay the onset of nearsightedness. And, the blue light from screens can cause another problem that doctors call “digital eye strain.”

“So, what’s that? Vision becomes blurry, eyes become fatigued, sometimes red. It’s very frequent to start getting headaches,” explained Alan Mendelsohn, MD, an ophthalmologist.

A Canadian study revealed that during the COVID lockdown, eight-year-olds spent an average of more than five hours a day in front of screens for fun with more screen time needed for school. Experts say try the 20-20-20 practice with your kids. That means you take regular breaks every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Also encourage kids to play outside as much as possible.

The World Health Organization estimates that half the world’s population may be myopic by 2050.


Contributors to this news report include: Julie Marks, Producer; and Roque Correa, Editor.

REPORT #2870

BACKGROUND: Myopia, also known as nearsightedness, is when the eye does not bend, or refract, light properly therefore not focusing correctly so images are not clear. With myopia, close objects look clear but distant objects appear blurred. Myopia affects nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population. While the exact cause of myopia is unknown, there is evidence that many people inherit myopia, or at least the tendency to develop myopia. If one or both parents are nearsighted, there is an increased chance their children will be nearsighted. The actual development of myopia may be affected by how a person uses his or her eyes. Individuals who spend considerable time reading, working at a computer, or doing other intense close visual work may be more likely to develop myopia.

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MYOPIA RISK FACTORS: Some people with myopia may experience blurred distance vision only at night. With “night myopia,” low light makes it difficult for the eyes to focus properly. Or the increased pupil size during dark conditions allows more peripheral, unfocused light rays to enter the eye. People who do an excessive amount of near-vision work may experience a false or “pseudo” myopia. Their blurred distance vision is caused by overuse of the eyes focusing mechanism. After long periods of near work, their eyes are unable to refocus to see clearly in the distance. Clear distance vision usually returns after resting the eyes. However, constant visual stress may lead to a permanent reduction in distance vision over time. Symptoms of myopia may also be a sign of variations in blood sugar levels in people with diabetes or maybe an early indication of a developing cataracts.


NEW TREATMENT FOR MYOPIA IN CHILDREN:  Glasses to stop myopia in children have been shown to work in a multi-site trial of 256 children aged six to ten years old across 14 trial sites in the United States and Canada. The glasses are the concept of scientists Jay and Maureen Neitz and ophthalmology colleagues at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “For the very first time there are glasses that, when you wear them, actually slow or even stop the progression of myopia,” said Jay Neitz, who is also co-founder of SightGlass Vision Inc. of Palo Alto, California. Trial participants use one of three types of lenses instead of their normal glasses: control lenses or one of two test lens designs. After their assessments at baseline, participants are followed for progression of myopia over 36 months. Neitz said his team was able to design a lens to make central vision clear and in focus and give the peripheral vision much lower contrast. “It recreates what is supposed to be going on with our eyes before we started putting all of these things in front of our face like computer screens and tablets,” Neitz said.



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Karen Dennis


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