COVID-19 could make the world more short-sighted

How COVID-19 could make the world more short-sighted [WARNING]

COVID-19 is an unprecedented global pandemic the likes of which has not been seen in our lifetime. The procedures in place to limit the spread and impact of the virus will represent a huge change in how we live and work.

There are several concerns that some of these measures will have a detrimental impact on the well being of children who are kept at home to restrict exposure and spread of the virus.

There is another epidemic that has been brewing over the past two decades. One that is expected to claim the sight of hundred of millions of people by 2050.

And COVID-19 is about to increase that risk. The rate of short sightedness (also known as myopia) has doubled over the past 20 years and is expected to double again over the next 20-30 years when over half the world will be short sighted. About 10% of them are expected to have high myopia which will lead to blindness in one or both eyes. Some countries in the far east, such as South Korea or Singapore already have rates of myopia as high as 85% in 18 year olds. High myopia is already the leading cause of blindness in one eye in several countries.

As an award-winning myopia control specialist, I work with several international groups working to slow the worldwide progression of myopia. We have all come to the same conclusion that children spending more time at home, through social distancing and isolation, will be at a much higher risk of myopic progression primarily due to two main reasons:

  • Increased time using focusing close up and using digital devices
  • Reduced outdoor and sunlight time

Both factors have been shown to increase the progression of myopia by stimulating eyeball growth which in turn increases the level of short-sightedness. Unfortunately, increased eyeball growth increases the risk of blindness when we become adults due to conditions such as tears in the retina and a higher risk of degeneration of the retina.

During this unprecedented period of social distancing, please try to ensure for you and your family the following:

  • They take lots of regular breaks from using screens. The 20-20-20 rule is great. Look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. Also 10 minutes away every hour is important too.
  • If you or children are reading on a device, see if there is a “dark mode”. This has been shown to reduce the progression of myopia
  • Hold reading material and devices further away from your eyes. Excessive focusing can drive eyeball growth and short-sightedness
  • Get a good night’s sleep, children (under the age of 14) need at least 9 hours. A lack of sleep has been linked to higher levels of myopia
  • Get outdoors whenever you can, ideally at least 2 hours a day. Understandably, this will be more difficult, but it could make a big impact. Remember to follow government guidelines for social distancing.

We inevitably expect the eyes of children who are short sighted to grow more quickly than average over the next few months, leading to an increase in myopia so use the advice above to try and limit the change.

If your child is already short sighted, please talk to a myopia control consultant because we now have the techniques and technology that have been shown to safely slow down the rate of change in children. Especially using contact lenses designed for children who are short sighted. They are successful, even from as young as 5 years of age.

Remember to stay safe during this period of crisis, follow the steps above to help your child’s sight and vision. If you need any advice or have concerns about your child being short sighted please call us on 02083431122 or email: [email protected]

About the Author Bhavin Shah

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