Stating that the pandemic process increases the development of myopia in children, Ophthalmology Department Lecturer member Prof. Arif Koytak stated, “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of myopia increased in children who were exposed to computer, tablet and phone screens in order to continue their education and perform their social activities in 2020. It has been determined that the incidence of myopia in 2020 has increased 3 times in 6-year-old children, 2 times in 7-year-olds, and 1.4 times in 8-year-old children compared to previous years.
Bezmialem Vakıf University Hospital Chief Physician and Department of Ophthalmology Faculty Member Prof. Arif Koytak expressed, “Almost the entire world, especially children, spent the year 2020 at home and indoors. This age group, which is at risk for the development of nearsightedness, stayed away from activities such as games and sports carried out outside in daylight. With the precautionary measures taken, they spent almost all their days in front of tablet, computer and mobile phone screens for their lessons and recreational activities. It was not difficult to predict that these mandatory restrictions would have a negative impact on the development and progression of myopia in children. The first scientific research to prove that these concerns are justified came from China," he said, and gave the following information about the research results:
“The study, based on the measurement of refractive errors of approximately 125 thousand children in the last 5 years, proved that practices such as strict curfew and distance education implemented in the first six months of 2020 in China significantly increased the development of nearsightedness in children aged 6-8 years. In the study, it was determined that the incidence of myopia in 2020 increased 3 times in 6-year-old children, 2 times in 7-year-olds, and 1.4 times in 8-year-olds compared to previous years.
Prof. Arif Koytak stated, “Mild and moderate myopia cannot be said to have a negative effect on a person's quality of life. However, high myopia (number 6 and above), which constitutes 10% of all myopic cases, can cause progressive damage and permanent vision loss in the eyes after middle age. While the effect of the quarantine, which lasted for 6 months in China, that is, a short time compared to other countries, gave such striking results, this negative effect of applications such as curfews and distance education, which lasted longer and is expected to continue in the west, on eye health should also be taken into account.
WHO: By 2050, more than 50 percent of the entire world's population will become myopic!
Explaining the reasons for the development of myopia, Prof. Arif Koytak indicated, “Myopia is an eye disorder that causes blurred vision, especially at a distance. It was previously thought that myopia could be largely genetic. But we now know that genetics is not the only factor. The researchers, who focused on the rapid increase in the rate of myopia in the society, revealed that this increase may be due to the significant increase in the activities carried out by children and young people focusing on close distances. Again, in long-term follow-up studies conducted on many children in different countries, it was found that spending less time outside for games and sports activities is a significant risk factor for the development of myopia; The protective effect of activities performed in open air and bright daylight in terms of the development of nearsightedness was determined.
As a result of the technological and social transformation we have experienced in the last 25-30 years, children and young people travel much less, spend less time on the streets and playgrounds, and do less sports; on the other hand, we know that they read and write much more and look at computer, tablet and smartphone screens. In 2000, the rate of myopia in the society was 25% in Europe and America, and around 50% in Far Asian countries such as China and Singapore. In 2020, this rate has increased to 33% in Western countries and over 80% in Far East countries. The World Health Organization expects that by 2050, more than 50% of the world's population will be nearsighted.
Measures to prevent the increase of myopia formation in children under 10 years of age
Prof. Arif Koytak listed what needs to be done to prevent myopia in children under the age of 10:
• Correcting existing refractive errors by undergoing an eye examination of all children and young people who have not had an eye examination recently.
• Focusing on outdoor activities such as games, walking, cycling and sports, especially in daylight, at every opportunity, provided that social distance and quarantine rules are followed.
• Limiting the time spent in front of the computer, tablet and mobile phone as much as possible.
• Reducing continual time spent in front of the screen as much as possible. Going on a 5-10 minute eye rest break after every half hour of close screen work.
• Presenting some courses with appropriate content from audio recordings, not video.
• Watching from the TV screen if possible and from the furthest possible distance.
• Avoiding working in dim environments. Carrying out activities such as reading, writing, drawing at close range in the brightest possible environments.