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Up to 10% surge in refractive errors reported in kids due to online classes

New Delhi: 8 to 10  per cent increase in Myopia and Astigmatism refractive error cases of kids have been reported in Delhi NCR as a result of Virtual Classes. 4 Years old, Aarav started schooling in 2020 with the virtual mode of classes. Within 1 year he has been diagnosed with refractive error, Myopia.

Parimal Narang, Sr. Optometry Consultant, Palak Opticals, practising for 2 decades, having multiple centres across the country, has observed an increase in Refractive Error cases amongst kids during the last one year. He said, “Cases are definitely rising and some are even detected with myopia, astigmatism and computer vision syndrome. Last week alone, I have seen around 8-10 cases of children with issues of blurring of vision, dry eyes, and a headache. Since there is less exposure to sunlight, and maximum exposure to computer & phone screen, children are coming to us with refractive disorders.”

Further, he informed that the children who spent most of their time indoors have 9.5 times the risk of developing myopia. Myopia, most commonly defined as spherical equivalent refraction (SER) of ≤−0.5D, is a risk factor for cataract, glaucoma, maculopathy, retinal detachment and other ocular disorders, and can thus result in substantial vision loss.

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According to WHO guidelines, children under 5 years are not recommended any screen time. But now kids have to keep their eyes constantly glued to the screen causing a damaging effect on their eyes and also creating other health issues. Hence, the need of the hour is to devise proper rules & guidelines of engagement to minimise its impact. The Ministry of Health should come forward with stringent guidelines and solution to prevent such vision issues to aggravate amongst kids.

In most developed countries, there exist programmes to screen children aged 3-4 years for visual defects. This is done to ensure that defects like squint and amblyopia are identified early and rectified before the age of 8 or 9, avoiding the certainty of the child having ‘defective’ vision for life. Hence, we would urge The Ministry of Health to develop Eye Care Programmes especially for kids and get them executed by the schools effectively in this virtual schooling system.

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