Studies show that during the pandemic and lockdown, the number of people suffering from myopia increased sharply. Children are especially vulnerable.
Due to social isolation, distance learning and work, we often look at computer screens, tablets and smartphones. In addition, most people hardly go outside during a pandemic. Constant focusing on nearby objects and lack of daylight affect vision, writes DW.
Myopia develops in childhood
Sedentary and active use of gadgets has a particularly bad effect on children and their vision. According to recent studies from the Netherlands and China, myopia has increased dramatically during the pandemic, especially in children. Scientists call this phenomenon “quarantine myopia”.
In China, for example, surveys of more than 120,000 schoolchildren aged 6 to 13 have shown that the number of children with myopia has risen sharply in the “year of the crown.” According to the study, especially in children aged 6-8 years, myopia was diagnosed three times more often than in previous years. In this age group, visual acuity deteriorated by approximately 0.3 diopters.
The sharp deterioration of vision among children is also alarming because it becomes clear at an early age whether a person will suffer from myopia and will need tools to correct vision. Myopia usually begins to develop in early school age and worsens over the years. The earlier this process begins, the worse the vision will be. Severe myopia increases the risk of retinal detachment, cataract development due to increased intraocular pressure and even complete loss of vision with age.
The better the education, the worse the vision
The Brian Holden Institute for Vision estimates that by the middle of the century, about five billion people, about half the world’s population, will suffer from myopia. First of all, in industrialized countries, the number of people with myopia has increased rapidly in recent decades. This is due to a changed lifestyle.
Researchers have also found a direct link between increased educational opportunities and impaired vision: the higher the level of education, the greater the risk of myopia. “This is mainly due to the very early and intensive use of computers, smartphones and tablets to the detriment of free time in the fresh air,” – says the professor. Nicole Ether, director of the ophthalmology clinic of the University of Münster.
In Asia, the number of myopic children and adolescents is above average. For example, after World War II, about 20 to 30 percent of 20-year-olds in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea suffered from myopia. Today they are more than 80 percent. In China, four out of five adolescents are short-sighted. In some Asian countries, the figure is as high as 95 percent. In Europe, this vision defect occurs in about half of young people.
Distance and daylight reduce the risk of myopia
The risk of myopia can be reduced if you do not look too long at an object nearby, regardless of whether it is a smartphone or an interesting book. It is important to follow the distance and from time to time look away, look into the distance. It also helps to stay longer outdoors, as daylight prevents further growth of the eyeball. Indoor lighting intensity averages from 300 to 500 suites, and on the street on a bright summer day – about 100 thousand suites. Studies in Scandinavia show that myopia worsens in the dark.
Constant looking at the screen can primarily cause irritation, fatigue and dry eyes in children. According to scientists, excessive use of electronic means not only leads to even greater myopia, but also affects the spatial perception. This can lead to blurred vision or even the development of strabismus.
In addition, the use of smartphones in the evening can cause sleep disorders. “The high proportion of blue light on the screens prevents the release of the hormone melatonin, which causes drowsiness,” explains Nicole Ether.
Many electronic devices already have a night mode that reduces blue light. However, according to the professor, to sleep soundly and calmly, you should give up electronics about two hours before bedtime.
The eyes need rest and light
Bettina Wabbels from the University of Bonn’s ophthalmology clinic advises parents to strictly limit the amount of time their children spend in front of monitors. “From the point of view of ophthalmologists, computers, smartphones or tablets are contraindicated for children under three years of age,” the professor reminds.
She recommends that parents limit the daily use of electronic equipment to children between the ages of four and six to 30 minutes. In primary school age, the allowable time is a maximum of one hour a day, and at the age of about ten years – up to two hours.
This advice from a scientist from Bonn is quite acceptable for adults, because many people often wonder why their eyes get tired so quickly.
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