Short-sightedness Increasing in Children
Studies have found that the proportion of children who are short-sighted is increasing, leading to some blaming eye fatigue from computer use.
Too much screen time and lack of outdoor activities could also be leading to dry eyes and eye strain.
Short-sightedness (also called myopia) is when objects in the distance appear blurred. It is thought to affect one in three people in the UK. It usually starts during the teenage years, and can gradually get worse.
However, the condition can start in very young children, and the number of children who are short sighted is increasing.
Lack of focus
Short-sightedness happens when the eyes can’t focus properly – light rays are focused too far in front of the retina. It tends to run in families, but it isn’t known exactly why it happens.
Some experts have said that the condition can also be a result of too much focusing of the eyes on nearby objects, for example books or computers.
Near visual activities
A recent study from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, published in the journal Ophthalmology, has looked at the link between the increase in short-sightedness in childhood and near-work activities.
The study looked at nearly 2,000 children aged 7 to 12 years in Taiwan. They found that children who attended ‘cram school’ for more than two hours a day were more likely to develop short-sightedness. The researchers hypothesise that this link is due to the increase in near visual activity (reading books or screens) and reduced time outdoors.
A UK study has also recently found that spending more time studying increases the risk of becoming short sighted. It found that each year spent in education increased the risk.
Similarly to the study with Taiwanese children, the researchers believe that this increase in risk is because of the hours spent on tasks indoors and at a close distance while the eyes are developing.
Ophthalmologists are also seeing an increase in children with dry eyes or eye strain. It is thought that too much screen time could be to blame.
When looking at computers or digital devices, people don’t blink as often as they would normally. This can cause the eyes to become dry.
Experts recommend that children spend more time outside, as the brighter light levels are thought to be beneficial to developing eyes. Children should also be encouraged to take regular breaks from screens or books, and for them to hold devices further away from their eyes.
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