Mumbai: Samyukta Pawar, a resident of Goregaon, had to take her daughter to an eye doctor after the school told her the six-year-old could not see the blackboard clearly. The Class 2 pupil has been diagnosed with myopia – a condition in which a person has difficulty seeing distant objects.
City ophthalmologists said after schools resumed physics lessons, they saw an increase in the number of cases where parents realized their children were unable to see the blackboard clearly.
Dr. Sneha Kankaria, Ophthalmologist, Dr. Agarwal Eye Hospital Goregaon, said she sees 2-3 children daily who complain of blurry vision when sitting on the last bench.
“During the pandemic, most children’s activities and studies were limited to cellphone, computer and laptop (short distance) screens. Parents did not realize that children are not able to see things clearly from a distance. It’s only when they go back to school that these issues are noticed,” she said.
Dr Ashwin Sainani, Pediatric Ophthalmologist, PD Hinduja – Mahim Hospital, who sees children with myopia from as young as kindergarten age, said the upsurge in myopia cases is now at the forefront due to reopening of schools .
“Now that schools have physically reopened, parents are getting notes from schools saying their children can’t see. The parents tell us the problem happened yesterday, but they know the problem now because the child went to school yesterday,” Dr Sainani said.
Dr. Nikhil Sardar, Senior Ophthalmology Consultant, Nanavati Max Super Specialty Hospital – Vile Parle, said that since schools restarted, their outdoor patient ward has seen an increase of almost 30-40% in the number of patients. children complaining of nearsightedness, nearsightedness and a condition that has become quite common lately – Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
“The anatomy of our eyes is such that it prevents us from performing minute and detailed tasks such as squinting at a screen, spanning 40 to 50 minutes. But during the pandemic, children have stopped going out and spent hours on mobile, tablet or computer screens in addition to the virtual study period. This resulted in eye strain and accommodative stress or, in simpler terms, focused fatigue” , did he declare.
Dr Sardar added that CVS causes dryness in the eyes from constantly staring at the screen and leads to a reduction in the blink rate.
“Children could face premature retinal degeneration (blurred or no vision in the center of the visual field) in 20 to 30 years due to the continuous exposure of their eyes to backlighting,” he said.
Dr. Ragini Parekh, President of the Association of Ophthalmologists of Bombay and Head of Department of Ophthalmology at JJ Hospital, said that the trend of increasing cases of myopia has been there for some time and has become more pronounced. with the increased use of gadgets.
“Our children use gadgets more. This is one of the reasons for the increase in myopia cases and earlier, due to poor awareness, many cases went undetected. Parents are more aware now and also have their child’s eyes checked if they see complaints from school about not being able to write from what is written on the board,” she said. declared.
Explaining how the pandemic has led to the surge in myopia cases, Dr Sainani said the increase in close-viewing activities like online classes, reading books and restrictions on outdoor activities were important factors behind the rise.
“School was never a close viewing activity. It was still a remote viewing activity where you had to see through the classroom for the blackboard and the teacher. During the pandemic, schooling was online (close to viewing activity) and so were extracurricular activities like dance lessons, tabla lessons, etc. “, did he declare.
Dr. Sainani added that by limiting outdoor activities, the risk factor for myopia increases further. “The light we receive from outside is 10,000 times greater than that from indoor lighting. It has a protective effect and children’s eyes do not become myopic if they spend an hour and a half outdoors every day before sunset. During the pandemic, that hasn’t happened either,” he said.
Seeing the rise in cases of myopia, ophthalmologists said there was a need to raise awareness among parents to reduce unnecessary close-up viewing. “Parents should ensure that there is little or no unnecessary close-up viewing in children detected with myopia. This can lead to an increase in the power of your glasses, increased eye strain as well as dry eyes” , said Dr. Kankaria.
Dr Sainani said children should be allowed an hour and a half of outdoor activity before sunset and taken to an eye doctor for regular check-ups.