Prolonged exposure to mobile phones and gadgets is aggravating eye disorders among children. Over the last five months, doctors said there has been a five-fold rise in cases of myopia and ‘squint eye’ among school-going children. Moreover they have also seen Dry eye, which was primarily seen among adult professionals till recently, has hit children too due to increased screen time in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and resultant restrictions.
Doctors said they are seeing an increase in myopia in Indian children in two forms. There is new myopia in children who did not have refractive error earlier and second is increase in myopia (numbers) in children who were already myopic. The rate of increase or progression was higher than previously documented for the same child.
According to studies from The Netherlands and China, as a result of Covid 19 restrictions, myopia has increased drastically, especially in children between the ages of six and eight. In this age group, visual acuity shifted by a substantial 0.3 diopters towards myopia, an eye disease that leads to poor vision at a distance, while the near vision is clear.
Severe myopia can lead to eye disorders and diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma, leading to blindness. It is caused due to both genetic and environmental reasons.
Senior ophthalmologist from the civic-run hospital said that the children who are attending classes online clearly have no escape but there are certain things that parents can do to minimise the harm. They need to understand that smaller and brighter screens are bad. They should make the children sit in a bright room, preferably with a desktop or a laptop.
“Children who are younger than 2 years should avoid screen time altogether. Screen dependence at an early age can lead to development and speech delays. It tends to reduce their attention span and socialising pattern. Myopia incidences increased during the pandemic. There is as much as a 10 to 20 % surge in myopia cases. Moreover on a daily basis 6 to 7 percent of the eye problem cases they get are children with myopia complaints,” he said.
Dr Nikhil Sardar, Senior Consultant, Ophthalmology at Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, said there is no doubt the screen time of children has increased during the pandemic which has lead to increase in eye-related problems. Moreover they have seen over 30 per cent rise in the number of patients complaining of eye-related problems. “The eye gets tired if you use the screen for more than 30-40 mins continuously. Over exerting the eyes by exposure to any electronic device screen causes accommodative stress or in simpler terms, focusing fatigue,” he said.