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Progression of Myopia in School-Aged Children After COVID-19 Home Confinement

How Does My Child's Diet Impact Myopia Progression?

Foods are really, really critical because the eyes and the brain, they’re really one and the same, so what we do for the eyes we're doing for the brain—so we want the child to eat brain-healthy foods. This includes green leafy vegetables, which are very high in vitamin A. Vitamin A is really critical to protecting your eyes from all the blue light that's being emitted from digital devices.

It’s also important to increase a child’s time outdoors.

We don't know specifically why spending time outdoors slows myopia’s progression. It could be the lighting, or just looking far away, or it could very well be the vitamin D we’re absorbing. We’re seeing studies that are showing that children or individuals that are nearsighted actually have lower levels of vitamin D, so getting vitamin D into your system and definitely omegas. Omegas are the nutrients that help those cells that are pulled and stretched regenerate. So these omegas are very good for your brain and they're good for your eyes. There's solid evidence that they are very, very important.

COVID-19 & Myopia Progression

A study conducted in China starting in 2015 followed kids over a 5-year period, through 2020. What they originally wanted to do was look at the trajectory of 6- to 8-year-olds who are doing one hour of digital e-learning activities and compare them to the 9- to 13-year-olds doing two-and-a-half hours of digital e-learning activities. They wanted to see which group developed more nearsightedness.

What ended up happening was that because of the pandemic, especially last year in the first 6 months of the year, they decided to compare the first 4.5 years of the study, when there was no pandemic, to the later 6 months of the study, and see whether there's a difference due to the pandemic and the children’s confinement.

What ended up happening was that all these kids definitely had a progression in their nearsightedness. The 6-year-olds had a three-fold change in their nearsightedness compared to the 9- to 13-year-olds. The 7- to 8-year-olds had it 2-fold. So even though, as I said earlier, the older kids did more e-learning, it wasn't as much about the e-learning as it was the combination of the digital devices with the child’s age.

The instrumental piece of this ended up being that the younger a child is, the more nearsightedness is going to develop and advance, and definitely impact their overall development.

This was a really, really valuable study and very timely.

What Changes Can We Make at Home? | Brain Vision Institute

What Steps Can We Take To Prevent the Progression of Myopia?

Good lighting

Poor lighting makes a difference, and that is no longer a myth. Studies are showing that children who spend less than 2 hours a day doing outside activities have a higher incidence of the development of nearsightedness. So if you are inside, then you've got to make sure that when you are inside you have the brightest conditions as possible, so no dim lighting when you're reading because that will induce more eye strain.

Sleep schedule

You definitely want to keep your child on a healthy sleep schedule because sleep is one of the ways that the body and the brain heal and rest.

We're excessively using all these digital devices, so you want to make sure that your eyes have the opportunity to relax from the devices. The cells that maintain our body clock and tell us it's time to go to sleep or wake up are actually in the eye, so when we're using all these devices continuously, those cells get shut down. Or when you use them too close to bedtime, they don't have that time to regenerate or restore their cells.

So very often we see that there are a lot of sleep disturbances in these kids, where either they have difficulty falling asleep or even if they do fall asleep, they stay thoroughly asleep. That in itself is a whole topic, the excessive use of digital devices and their impact.

Keep the screen at a distance

Keeping the screen as far away as possible is one of the biggest recommendations I made to my patients this year when they were doing all the e-learning.

When all these kids got tablets from their school, I told their parents you can connect your child’s tablet to a projector and project it on the wall so your child's looking over there and it simulates more of a whiteboard effect, or you could even do it on a larger monitor. You want to create that distance.

Even when it comes to books, we have something called Harmon's distance: simply put your hand on your chin, and then you put the device right at your elbow, and that's the distance at which you want to hold the device.

The distance is going to be smaller for a smaller child who has a smaller arm but you don't want to bring it in any closer than that, because the closer we bring it in, the more that we have to focus harder, and the more that we're challenging the muscle balance.

20-20-20 rule

We also talk about this 20-20 minute rule and whether it is a good idea. You may want to set a timer because you need those constant reminders to be able to help you with that.

Take your child outdoors

Really, the best thing is to get your child to play outdoors - go to the park, go ride your bike, go to the swings, be outside, watch the trees, watch the birds, watch the clouds, do all those things that are outdoors.

Myopia Management

Getting into a nearsightedness management program, whether it's a program that gently shapes the cornea, whether it's using multifocal lenses, the program is best for your child really depends on where you are, what's going on with your child, what you can do as a parent.

To learn more about ways you can slow your child's progression, contact Brain Vision Institute in Schaumburg today!