Myopia Another Ramification of COVID-19

Published: July 23, 2021

myopia and covid 19 600px

Add myopia (near-sightedness) to the long list of consequences of the COVID-19 virus. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that the increased time children spent indoors over the last year, as well as increased time spent looking at “near targets,” such as computer screens, has led to a higher incidence of myopia among children.(1) Myopia is the most common eye condition worldwide, and rates have been rising for several decades.(2) The rate of myopia in the U.S. has doubled in the last 30 years, and is now at 42%, according to the International Myopia Institute.(3) The World Health Organization predicts that 50% of the world’s population will be myopic by 2050.(3)

The link between COVID-19 and myopia has two major factors, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. School closures and online learning increases screen time and “near work,” which is a risk factor for myopia. Children had less outdoor time during COVID and time in natural light has shown to help prevent myopia.(4) It is hypothesized that natural light stimulates the release of dopamine, an inhibitor of eye growth. “Lack of dopamine results in the eye becoming more elongated, resulting in nearsightedness.”(5)

The American Academy of Pediatrics referenced a recent study involving over 123,000 school-aged children in China, with researchers finding the prevalence of myopia increasing 1.2 to 3.2 times during the months of enforced home schooling.(1)

“The long-term effect of increased screen time and restriction of outdoor physical activity will have physical, mental and emotional consequences for children,” states the academy. “Parents and physicians should advocate for periodic breaks from the screen throughout the day and limited extracurricular screen time for the reasons noted above and those known long before the COVID-19 pandemic.”(1)

 


(1) Frederick, D. M.D, Kuo, A. M.D., American Academy of Pediatrics, Conjunctivitis, Myopia Consequences of COVID-19 in Children, https://www.aappublications.org/news
(2) Goshua, A. STAT, Experts Worry Screen Time During COVID Could Increase Vision Problems in Kids, https://www.statnews.com/
(3) International Myopia Institute, Myopia is Growing Around the World, https://myopiainstitute.org/myopia/
(4) Wai, C. M.D., American Academy Ophthalmology, Preventing Myopia During the COVID-19 Pandemic, https://www.aao.org/
(5) Trautner, T. Michigan State University, The Benefit of Daylight on Our Eyesight, https://www.canr.msu.edu/