Quarantine Myopia - how lockdowns lead to increased levels of short-sight amongst children
If you’re already asking your screen with exasperation, “What even is quarantine myopia?”, don’t worry. We’ll get to that.
This is the second part of our ‘COVID and Vision Problems’ series.
In part 1, ‘Lockdown vision problems plague how many? Help! More students than ever now affected,’ we examined how prevalent lockdown vision problems are.
Now, we will dive a little deeper into the specific mechanisms that might cause these issues, and provide some advice for how to (hopefully!) minimise the impact of quarantine myopia.
Right under our noses: prolonged “near work” and shortsightedness
Reading a book or screen, watching a movie, writing. These are all activities that, to some degree, exist contrary to our eyes’ natural purpose…
What do they all have in common?
They are all ‘near work’: that is, they require your eyes to focus on something close. Over time, this can result in the eyes becoming fatigued, and unable to properly focus on distant objects.
We call this shortsightedness, or myopia (the smart amongst you might be able to guess what quarantine myopia is by now!)
There is an established link between the amount of near-work a child does, and the likelihood of developing shortsightedness.
In fact, to take it even further, many studies suggest that educational attainment has a direct correlation with the likelihood of a myopia diagnosis. The more time an individual spends in education, the more likely they are to develop myopia.
And, at the same time, for every additional year spent studying, the severity of myopia has also been shown to increase.
This means in some professions, such as law and medical students, myopia prevalence rates are as high as 80%!
You can even see this on a national level. As countries become more developed, and more reliant on near work, the levels of myopia in the population increase.
Equally, as the level of education increases across a nation, so too do the levels of myopia.
But how exactly does lockdown fit into this puzzle?
Screening for increased screen-time
Although we are back in classrooms now, during lockdown the amount of time children spent in front of screens increased exponentially.
On its own, this might not amount to much. However, it was accompanied by a decrease in the amount of time spent outside. So, in practice, this means that children have been vastly increasing their exposure to near work.
Without appropriately adjusting their eyes’ “resting” periods to compensate, it makes sense that it negatively impacts their vision outcomes.
The result? The skyrocketing rates of quarantine myopia that we are seeing.
This problem is only compounded upon by the added stressor of blue-light emitted by screens. Blue light is a known factor in causing dryness and tiredness in the eyes, which can contribute to symptoms such as headaches and difficulties reading.
Regular breaks outside are an extremely important facet of eye health, and preventing quarantine myopia. They allow us to look at distant objects, and for the eyes to relax properly, counteracting the tiring effects of staring at a screen all day.
Sight charity ‘Fight for Sight’ recommends the ‘20-20-20’ rule to help avoid eye-strain. For every 20 minutes you spend in front of a screen, you should spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away.
How can you fight quarantine myopia if you can’t see it?
Another factor to consider in the relationship between lockdown and eyesight is the decrease in direct interactions with pupils over the course of lockdown.
The obvious implication here is that there have been less opportunities for teachers to identify which students might be struggling.
You might notice a child who is always squinting at the board from the back of the class. You would probably notice a student exhibiting avoidance behaviours in the classroom (check out our post on symptoms of vision problems for more information on this!).
However, you are less likely to pick up on these cues over a virtual lesson. If you catch the signs of quarantine myopia early, it allows plenty of time for corrective measures.
Spotted some signs? Screen now!
Now that school is back in session, we would advise extra vigilance for these indicators. It could genuinely change a student’s life!
Have you noticed any changes in your students since schools have reopened?
If you have concerns about your students and their vision, it can take just a few minutes to get peace of mind.
Don’t let quarantine myopia interfere with your teaching, screen for your peace of mind today.