1 in 6 students in Delhi short-sighted; high computer use, lack of outdoor activity to blame
For the study, researchers enrolled 9,884 children studying in in public and private schools in Delhi between the ages of 5 and 15 and screened them after a year to determine the annual incidence and the progression of myopia.delhi Updated: Feb 03, 2018 22:58 IST
Around one in six (17%) children between the ages of 5 and 15 years are short-sighted and need vision correction, according to a study conducted on 10,000 students in Delhi schools by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
The study, recently published in PLoS One, also found that another 3.4% of the children developed myopia a year later, and that the myopia had progressed among the 17% that already had it.
For the study, researchers enrolled 9,884 children studying in in public and private schools in Delhi between the ages of 5 and 15 and screened them after a year to determine the annual incidence and the progression of myopia.
“The aim of the study was to not just look at the incidence and the progression of myopia in children, but also to look at what are the risk factors associated with it. We found that along with genetics, ‘near work’, such as reading or too much screen-time on computers or television screens, are significant risk factors (for development of myopia),” said Dr Radhika Tandon, a professor of ophthalmology at AIIMS, co-author of the study led by professor Rohit Saxena.
To study the co-relation between the risk factors and the refractive power, the parents of the children enrolled were asked about the children’s lifestyle, including study and play habits.
Among the children in whom myopia progressed, more than 95% spent at least five to six hours a day reading and writing, as compared to 89% in the group in whom myopia did not progress.
Similarly, 78.7% children in whom myopia progressed spent four or more hours a week at a computer or playing video games as compared to 54.4% children in the group in which myopia did not progress.
Almost 96% of the children in whom myopia progressed spent three hours or more watching television as compared to 91% in the group in which myopia did not progress.
“You cannot ask students to stop reading and doing their homework, nor can you keep them away from technology. However, it is important to balance it out. Parents, especially of children who have a family history of myopia, must discourage recreational use of computers and video games,” said Dr Tandon.
The study also found that outdoor activities have a protective effect against vision deterioration. In the group in which myopia progressed, 7.8% spent 14 hours or more a week on outdoor activities, as compared to 20.2% in the group in which myopia did not progress.
“Outdoor activities relaxes the eye as when you are in a park or field, you anyway look into the distance, reducing eye strain. Also, natural light is more beneficial to vision than artificial lighting. Schools should encourage outdoor physical activities and have regular sports periods,” she said.
A thorough eye screening exam is needed at some critical ages.
Ø At Birth (may be initially done by paediatrician),
Ø At 3 years (at time of joining school)
Ø At 5 years
Ø Children with glass correction: every 6 months till 14 years, then annually
Ø Adults with glasses/lenses: Every two years, or as and when required basis
Ø If your child has missed eye screening at above ages, get a routine eye exam done anyway.
Does my child need glasses?
Your child needs a thorough eye examination if:
• One eye drifts or aims in a different direction than the other
• They blink or rub eyes excessively after watching TV or reading
• Frequently bump into things or drop things
• Hold reading material or object too close; turns or tilts head to focus
• Photographs show white reflex in the eyes
• Reacts abnormally if one eye is covered
• Frequent complaints of headaches, eyestrain or double vision
Strategies to preserve vision
Spend time outdoors in natural light
Lower screen-time, including TV, computer, mobile and video games
Distance between eye and book or screen should be at least 30 cm
Keep rooms well-light
Read books and tablets sitting up