Actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, known for her role in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” recently shared her concern about her son Rocky’s struggles with online learning. Initially, she attributed it to eye strain, but he was actually diagnosed with myopia. This condition, also known as nearsightedness, is becoming increasingly common due to the amount of time we spend in front of screens for various activities such as work, school, entertainment, socialization, and exercise. Sarah explained, “I really chalked it up to screen fatigue because my kids didn’t have a lot of access to devices (before Covid). All of a sudden they’re thrown into this world where they’re on Zoom for school and the only way they can connect with their friends afterwards is to continue on these devices. It was not something my kids were used to.” According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), myopia affected nearly two billion people in 2010, accounting for one-quarter of the global population. Experts predict that this number will rise to 3.3 billion by 2030.
Representational image. (Photo: Pixabay)
Myopia is a common problem for both adults and children. Dr. Swapnali Sabhapandit, director and senior surgeon at the Institute of Ophthalmic Sciences, AIG Hospitals, explains that research has shown increased indoor time and near-focused activities like using electronic screens, playing video games, or extensive reading can lead to the onset and progression of myopia in children. The highest risk of developing myopia is between the ages of 5 and 10, and less exposure to outdoor light further increases this risk. Unfortunately, myopia cannot be reversed, so eye doctors focus on reducing the chances of the condition worsening. With the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, the incidence of myopia among children has reached epidemic proportions. The lack of outdoor exposure and sunlight has had a negative impact on children worldwide in terms of myopia onset and progression.
Special contact lenses and glasses can help slow down the progression of myopia. However, it is important to supervise children’s use of contact lenses to prevent infections and vision loss. Additionally, low-dose atropine eye drops have been shown to be effective in preventing myopia from worsening in children aged 5 to 18.
Prevention is key. While myopia can have a genetic component, limiting screen time and encouraging children to spend more time outdoors can help prevent its development.
Spending excessive time focusing on objects that are close to the eyes can worsen myopia. Dr. Swapnali advises parents to encourage their children to hold objects at least a foot away from their faces and to take breaks from screens every 20 minutes for a few seconds. It is also important to ensure that children get at least an hour of outdoor sunlight exposure each day.