May 21, 2024


Truth Triumphs

Spate of Refractive Errors in Children

Increase in cases after Covid pandemic and online classes

Bengaluru, April 8: Post Corona pandemic, there has been a substantial increase in the number of cases of refractive errors in children. This can be primarily attributed to increase in screen time – either due to online classes or for leisurely activities since it was not always possible to venture out, meet friends’ offline or play outdoors, according to Dr Supriya Shetty, Pediatric Ophthalmologist and Squint Specialist, Rainbow Children’s Hospital, Bengaluru

“Mummy, will I have to start wearing glasses now?
“Doctor, Can my son overcome eye power through exercises?” “Will a good diet improve my daughter’s eye power?”
These are some of the apprehensions I hear on a daily basis when I tell my little patients (and their worried parents) that they have eye power. In medical terms – Refractive Error.

This all begins when the kid returns from school and talks about not being able to read what is displayed on the board during class, especially the ones who are seated in the back benches. Or the child complains of frequent headaches. Even teachers or caretakers sometimes can report children straining themselves to read. There are also cases of parents noticing excessive blinking in their children. These are some of the initial symptoms of refractive error.

First and foremost, it is important to understand that a refractive error is a very common eye disorder. It occurs when the eye cannot clearly focus the images from the outside world. The result of refractive errors is blurred vision, which is sometimes so severe that it causes visual impairment. The most common types include: Myopia (or short-sightedness) – a child is unable to see distant objects clearly. Hyperopia (or far-sightedness) – in children, hyperopia typically starts from blurring of distant objects and then slowly blurring of objects much closer. Astigmatism. In very simple terms, blurry vision only at a particular angle of vision.

Do we really need glasses? Let me answer this with an analogy. What do we do when we feel hungry? We eat food. Staying hungry will only make us feel more hungry and irritable. Similarly, when the eye needs to see clearly, it requires glasses to fulfill its needs. Not wearing or avoiding glasses will strain the eye further and can only lead to a gradual increase in eye power (and the inconveniences that accompany it)?

While refractive error in children is a very common disorder, identifying the condition early and getting it treated makes a world of difference to a child’s quality of life.
Simple measures such as limiting screen time, spending time outdoors with good exposure to sunlight, especially in the mornings, ensuring a well-lit environment for reading and taking regular breaks to rest the eyes will go a long way in keeping the eye healthy. In the meantime, for the little ones who may still be apprehensive of wearing glasses due to cosmetic reasons and are looking for that magic wand to cure eye power. Remember, our beloved and brave wizard Harry Potter always wore glasses.

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