This year has undoubtedly been an eventful year, and we have all been faced with different challenges. However, one challenge has affected us all: the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects our lives and in order to limit physical contact and decrease the spread of the disease we have been forced to adopt a different mode of communicating. Virtual communication has several notable advantages and one of these is the decreased need for physical contact and the ability to hold a meeting or be part of a program from anywhere in the world! It is hard not to have attended at least one webinar during the COVID-19 lockdown!
Kids have also had to switch to this mode of communication and use this platform as a tool to continue their education.
However, research shows that increased screen exposure is linked to digital eye strain. This is characterized by fatigue of the eyes, dryness of the eyes, headaches and neck aches.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children below the age of 2 years should have little to no screen time exposure.1 The academy also recommends restricted screen time exposure in children up to the early teens (13 years).
Amongst several issues extended screen exposure may cause, alteration in sleep pattern1 and also development of myopia are of importance to the eye.2
Myopia which is also commonly referred to as short sightedness is a condition of the eye in which parallel rays from a distant object are focused in front of the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (the retina). This results in blur distant vision. Higher degrees of myopia (above -5.00 D) are associated with sight threatening conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, myopic macular degeneration, and retinal detachments. 3 The global prevalence of myopia is increasing at an alarming rate and scientists have predicted that by the year 2050, half of the world’s population will have myopia and of these 958 million people will have high myopia.4 The potential complications that may be associated with this rise in myopia is difficult to fathom!
Presently, more than a billion people in the world have poor vision due to lack of access to spectacles and myopia is the leading cause of poor distant vision in the world (affecting an estimated 1.45 billion people as at 2010.5
It is important that as individuals, parents and guardians we understand that this alarming statistic could affect any of us or someone close to us! Kids are more vulnerable hence the need for awareness and early intervention. However, it is not all sad news! Modern medicine and research has shown that we can prevent the onset of myopia or slow down or halt its progression through several medically sound and safe strategies. Most simple of the strategies for decreasing myopia development is decreasing digital screen exposure in children and also increasing out door time.
As the world marks World Sight Day today with the theme: ‘Hope in Sight’, avail yourself the opportunity of a comprehensive eye examination, take your family, take a friend, support someone in need of visual rehabilitation!
If your kid has myopia already or you know someone diagnosed with myopia, find out from your eye care professional about myopia control strategies and get started!
Happy world sight day!
Dr Obinwanne C Jr
Cornea, Specialty Contact Lenses and Myopia control services.
- American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media. Media and Young Minds. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5):e20162591
- Enthoven CA, Tideman JWL, Polling JR, Yang-Huang J, Raat H, Klaver CCW. The impact of computer use on myopia development in childhood: The Generation R study. Prev Med. 2020 Mar;132:105988. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2020.105988. Epub 2020 Jan 15. PMID: 31954142.
- Flitcroft DI, He M, Jonas JB, et al. IMI – Defining and classifying myopia: a proposed set of standards for clinical and epidemiologic studies. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2019;60:M20–M30. https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.18-25957.
- Holden BA, Fricke TR, Wilson DA, Jong M, Naidoo KS, Sankaridurg P, Wong TY, Naduvilath TJ, Resnikoff S. Global Prevalence of Myopia and High Myopia and Temporal Trends from 2000 through 2050. Ophthalmology. 2016 May;123(5):1036-42. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2016.01.006. Epub 2016 Feb 11. PMID: 26875007.
- Bourne R.R. Stevens G.A. White R.A. et al. Causes of vision loss worldwide, 1990–2010: a systematic analysis. The Lancet Global Health. 2013; 1: e339-e349.