Lafayette - A sharp rise in the development of nearsightedness in children may be linked to the covid-19 pandemic according to a recent study out of Hong Kong.
News 15 spoke with Doctor Jerry Gerdes with Family Eye Clinic who says the number of children he’s diagnosed during the pandemic is about the same compared to years past, but he also says he believes kids’ screen time has definitely played a role.
"Kids are spending more times indoors and not spending time outdoors," said Gerdes. "And that’s more than likely the link to the increase in kids with myopia or nearsightedness post-pandemic versus pre-pandemic."
Nearsightedness or myopia is a condition where an individual can see things up close but not at a distance. A contributing factor to developing myopia is an over exposure to blue light.
"Kids are spending an exuberant amount of time on digital devices and not spending enough time outside so that’s leading to eye fatigue, eye strain, neck and shoulder problems," Gerdes said.
The other factor is sunlight - or lack thereof - nearsightedness occurs when the eye grows, and he says with millions of kids learning from home during the pandemic, many haven’t been getting enough vitamin D.
"What we’ve realized that the sunlight causes a release of dopamine in our bodies and that dopamine prevents our eyes from getting longer," said Gerdes. "So, if you’re inside, not outside. You’re not getting that dopamine and there’s nothing tell you your eyes to not grow."
Limiting your child’s exposure to blue-light and encouraging them to spend time outdoors is important for their eye health, and when the littles ones are glued to the screen, protection during use is equally as important.
"And also, when they’re on digital devices, to protect, if there’s a blue light filter on the digital device, to activate that filter. If they wear glasses, we can put a blue light filter in the glasses," Gerdes said.
One last piece of advice for reducing eye fatigue during long periods of exposure is what Gerdes calls the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes you spend looking at a screen, take 20 seconds and look 20 feet away.
Gerdes also recommends you get your child’s eyes examined between 6 and 12 months; between 3 and 5 years old and every year after the completion of first grade.