Surge in nearsightedness blamed on increased screen time

Increased screen-time among children is causing serious problems for their vision and raising concerns of long term health problems.

A new study found the rate of nearsightedness increased massively during the pandemic.

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"The pandemic, especially with quarantining and being inside and looking at a computer or even just lack of outdoor activity has been detrimental for a lot of kids suffering in terms of eye strain, eye fatigue, headache," Dr. Michael Rosenblatt with Washington Eye Doctors said.

The study, done by the Journal of American Medical Association Opthamology found that rates of nearsightedness among children were three times higher during the pandemic compared to the last five years.

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That number was already going up before the pandemic.

"We talk about a pandemic but there’s been an epidemic going on for several years that we’ve been concerned about," Rosenblatt said.

Doctors say nearsightedness brings more than just blurry vision. It increases several eye health risks like cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachment.

"The more nearsighted someone is, they actually have a significant increase in eye health problems later in life and that’s the big concern," Rosenblatt said.

There are treatments for those health risks like using certain contact lenses and prescription eye drops but doctors say it’s best to take preventative steps.

Rosenblatt recommends the 20,20,20 rule for both children and adults.

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"For every 20 minutes take 20 seconds and look 20 feet away. Really it’s a matter of keeping your eyes flexible," he said.

Nearsightedness is the lack of ability to see things far away clearly so doctors also say time outside for children to look at things in a distance is also crucial.

"Children 3,4,5&6 should get an hour and a half of outdoor activity each day," Rosenblatt said.

Doctors also say children as young as five need to be seeing an eye doctor. They say pediatrician eye checks are not enough.