In the coming weeks, schools will reopen, marking the beginning of a new school year in Brazil. Even in the first days of school, parents, teachers and guardians should be especially attentive to possible complaints presented by children and adolescents, such as difficulties in seeing clearly.
- Increase in cases of childhood myopia arises as an effect of the covid-19 pandemic
- You will never want to scratch your eyes again after watching this video.
Here, it should be noted that the covid-19 pandemic and the excess of screens, associated with the period of isolation, caused an increase in ophthalmological problems, such as myopia, in children. In fact, different national and international studies already confirm this relationship.
Analyzing data from the first year of the pandemic, scientists from China observed that the prevalence of myopia increased by 1.4 to 3 times compared to the previous 5 years in children aged 6 to 13 years. In the city of São Paulo, a city hall survey identified a 134% increase in myopia diagnoses in small children in 2022 compared to the last two years.
What vision problems are most common in post-pandemic children?
According to experts, although the myopia epidemic is prevalent, it is possible to consider that three types of vision problems are more common in children in recent years. Are they:
- Myopia, as already mentioned, in these cases, the patient has difficulty seeing far away;
- Hypermetropy, i.e. the difficulty of seeing closely;
- Astigmatism, marked by the combination of myopia and hyperopia.
Why did these complications intensify?
“Today, studies show that, in addition to the genetic factor, there are behavioral factors in the appearance and development of myopia. Among the causes are exaggerated exposure to screens and lack of outdoor activities,” explains Emerson Castro, an ophthalmologist at Hospital Sírio-Libanês.
In general, these situations were common to children in the most acute moments of covid-19, when schools stopped working face-to-face. “With the pandemic, in addition to online classes, we had many activities at home, which do not encourage looking into the distance”, adds Castro.
Although the pandemic has accentuated the ubiquity of screens, before the discovery of the covid-19 virus, there was already a tendency for greater exposure of little ones. For the post-pandemic moment, the challenge is to encourage external activities and “detachment” from cell phones and other electronic devices.
Signs and symptoms of vision problems in children, such as nearsightedness
None of these vision problems cause pain or have other flu-like manifestations, for example. In this way, understanding that the little one needs help depends on observing the people close to them. Among the main signs are:
- Difficulty reading, when already literate;
- Approach or remove objects from the face to read;
- Drop in school performance;
- Eye itchy;
- Report of difficulties to see;
- Direction deviations in the eyes.
In case of suspicion or doubt about vision problems, those responsible should seek an ophthalmologist. With the help of the specialist, it is possible to carry out different types of theses, including the refraction exam – the one that defines the degree of glasses to be used.
Limit access to screens in childhood
For Castro, it is interesting to limit access to screens by children. When this is not possible, as in the case of virtual classes, some exercises may be indicated. For example, every thirty minutes in front of the computer, it is worth taking a break of thirty seconds, focusing your gaze on a further point, through a window.
To protect children’s eyesight, the American Society of Pediatrics recommends that:
- Babies and children up to 2 years old are not exposed to screens, especially close to the face;
- Children up to 5 years old can have one to two hours of screen time per day, including television;
- Children over 6 years old and teenagers can have up to three hours of screens a day.
Here, it is important to highlight that these vision problems should not be ignored by guardians, as they compromise learning in the classroom and children’s self-esteem. In addition, it is known that people with more severe cases of myopia, for example, are at high risk for other problems involving the eyes, such as retinal detachment, glaucoma and cataracts.