Information is emerging that social restrictions and lock down arrangements may be causing myopia in children.
The risk for this has been hypothesised and highlighted by numerous professionals, based on two key changes in behaviour in children – a reduction in time spent outdoors and a significant increase in screen time whilst confined to indoors. We are lucky in Cayman Islands that we have experienced much less social restriction that many nations but it would be wrong to suggest we escaped this altogether.
A recent study published in the peer-reviewed, leading UK journal – British Journal of Ophthalmology – entry into which is a high bar when it comes to research and publication standards, the effects in 6,7 and 8 year olds were significant. In pre-Covid versus Covid cohorts of infants, the results for myopia were 27.64%, 26.47% and 25.81% for 6, 7 and 8-year-olds in the COVID-19 cohort, and 16.76%, 15.42% and 14.66%for 6, 7 and 8-year-olds in the pre-COVID-19 cohort, suggesting a higher myopia incidence in the COVID-19 cohort than in the pre-COVID-19 cohort.
Myopia or nearsightedness is one of the things our team looks for when we conduct our well-child checks and school health checks. It’s important to pick it up early because it can affect learning. Obviously all children are school predominantly in classrooms and so the development of myopia can make it difficult for children to see what’s on the board.
We need to be sensible about how research like this is interpreted. It will be many years before the true effects of what we have been through will be fully known. However, the link between vision and learning is well-established. This research looks at a specific age group and a specific length of time.
What does this mean in Cayman Islands?
Well, it is difficult to say at this point. The findings could be very important but equally the effects on our population could have been different due to our own measures. Myself, Dr Sara Watkin, and my colleagues – Dr Jasmina Marinova and Dr Sarah Newton will be watching for signs of this very closely in the checks we do.
If you do have any concerns or have noticed signs your child could have altered vision (which can have many causes), please feel free to contact us or your normal paediatrician.
I’d also encourage you to follow our Facebook page if you want be kept aware of any updates or alerts too.