Nearsightedness in Teens dr.Arif khan

Smartphone Screen Time Linked with Nearsightedness in Teens

According to a population-based study, teens spending more time on smartphone screens can become more nearsighted than those who take breaks. Studies show that non-stop use of screens and smartphones was linked with more myopic refractive errors, especially in cases where there is low outdoor exposure. Therefore, teenagers need to take frequent breaks and lessen their screen time to have a healthy brain and body.

Myopia: Common Vision Condition

Myopia is a common vision condition where you can see objects near to you but objects farther away are blurry. It happens when the shape of your eye causes light rays to bend incorrectly.  Because the light entering your eyes is not focused correctly, images appear unclear. This may also result in vision-related headaches because of the strain on your eyes. The only way to treat is through glasses; however, there are ways to reduce the risk of progression. 

Myopia or nearsightedness may be apparent around eight to twelve years of age but it may progress and worsen as they grow and become teenagers. 

Recent Research on Myopia

The corresponding author of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam and her colleagues developed a smartphone application called the Myopia app, Innovation, which records face-to-screen distance and smartphone use. They investigated the links between smartphone screen time, refractive error measured by the self-reported time spent outdoors, and the Myopia app. 

The study and app showed that continuous use of screen time included an average of 4 hours which did result in near-sightedness. It also emphasized that continuous use of more than 20 minutes was linked with affecting the corneal radius and refraction. Overall myopia prevalence was 18.9%. Three eye doctors who were not involved in the study welcomed the research.

According to research done by the chair of continuing education and clinical optometry at The Ohio State University College of Optometry in Columbus, told Reuters Health by email that there is an increased risk of developing myopia with prolonged use of digital screens. Particularly for children and teenagers, spending more time outdoors can help in negating the effect of prolonged screen time.”

Quick Remedies

It is recommended to educate patients about reducing their risk of myopia progression by spending more time outdoors, spending less time on screens, and taking frequent breaks when in front of screens. White eye exercises and frequent breaks may not cure myopia, they do help in reducing the progression by reducing eye strain and helping with the best vision possible. 

The importance of myopia as a growing global epidemic cannot be understated. With COVID-19 and disruptions in routine, this is much more prevalent as the youth turned to screens more often. It would be fair to say screen time is directly linked with myopia progression.

However, teens cannot avoid myopia due to excessive screen time even if they step out. Especially because research shows that a teenager spends approximately 4 hours per day on their smartphones for schoolwork or other activities. So, the above studies and results also apply to online learning, where students have to look over the screen for certain hours. 

So, it would be right to say that these results are important because we can now encourage parents to make sure their children limit the use of these devices unnecessarily for prolonged periods. 

In addition to myopia, there are longer-term side effects to continuous smartphone use like cataracts, dry eyes, or macular degeneration too. Therefore, it is necessary to save teens to suffer from myopia at a young age so it does not worsen later in life. 

Instead of spending too much time in front of screens, teenagers must find healthy activities. Perhaps, regular breaks and encouraging healthy outdoor activities with no screen exposure are a necessity to ensure healthy eyesight. Yes, screen time is inevitable but limiting it is highly important.

Dr. Arif Khan is a British Board certified Consultant Pediatric Neurologist. He is currently the CEO/Medical Director and Founder of Neuropedia Children’s Neuroscience Center in Dubai and is also an Associate Professor (Adj) at Mohammed Bin Rashid University, Dubai.He is a visiting Consultant Pediatric Neurologist at King's College Hospital Dubai. He is also the Director of Pediatric Neuroscience at Burjeel Medical City, Abu Dhabi. He founded and developed the first comprehensive children’s neuroscience center in the region called Neuropedia. It has now successfully completed 3 years of service to the regional population and has extensive plans to reach out to Northern Emirates. Dr. Khan had been working as a Consultant Pediatric Neurologist at the University Hospitals of Leicester and has been the lead clinician for complex epilepsies, vagal nerve stimulation service and ketogenic diet in the region. He also worked as Head of Children’s Services at American Center for Psychiatry and Neurology, UAE prior to his current assignments. He is an avid writer, authoring more than 40 peer-reviewed and public health publications. He has recently authored a book called Pediatrics – A clinical handbook. His professional memberships include fellowship of the royal college of pediatrics and child health, core member of the European pediatric neurology society and member of the British Pediatric Neurology Association. He has been a lecturer for medical students at the University Hospital of Leicester and has been teaching on the national training courses like pediatric epilepsy training course. He is also an accredited examiner for the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health.

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