Myopia predicted in 1/3 of Indian kids by 2030 due to prolonged sitting, screen use

Myopia has become a significant public health issue worldwide, with one in every two individuals being myopic as early as 2050.

Eye doctors revealed during the ongoing Myopia Awareness Week at Dr. Agarwals Eye Hospital in Mumbai that one third of all urban children in India aged 5–15 years are expected to suffer from myopia by 2030.

It is commonly known as nearsightedness, is a condition where objects are clear but those farther away appear blurred. It has become a significant public health issue worldwide, with one in every two individuals being myopic as early as 2050, with a rising prevalence among children and young adults.

Addressing the Myopia Epidemic: Rising Concerns and Recommendations from Experts

In urban youngsters aged 5 to 15, the frequency of myopia rose from 4.4 percent in 1999 to 21.1 percent in 2019. Based on an annual slope of 0.8 percent, our projections show that the percentage of urban children with myopia will rise to 31.89 percent in 2030, 40 percent in 2040, and 48.1 percent in 2050. This implies that in India, one in every two children will have myopia in the next 25 years, up from one in four currently.

Dr. Smit M. Bavariya, a cataract surgeon, shares her observation on witnessing a steady rise in the number of myopia cases in urban children. “About 120,000 myopic patients under the age of 20 visit Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Hospital every year across India.”

Dr. Smit M. Bavariya added, “The patient profile has also been changing over the years. Younger kids are now coming in frequently for an eye checkup, and more and more of them are getting diagnosed with myopia. We currently see many cases of moderate myopia in school-going children between the ages of 5 to 17. In 2017, our survey of 1,000 children aged between 3-15 in an urban slum area of Mumbai found that 200 had myopia.”

The doctor claims that a sedentary lifestyle, more screen time, and a decrease in outdoor activities are all factors in the sharp increase in childhood myopia occurrences. He went on to say that there are several underlying explanations for this growing problem. Children who spend too much time on screens develop their eyes, retinas, and brains, which speeds up the process of myopic alterations because of their rapidly growing eyeballs. Furthermore, a decrease in outside activities robs kids of exposure to natural light, which is vital for a child’s healthy eye development.

“Indeed, myopia is becoming more common in India, especially among the urban population. This tendency has been confirmed by a number of studies and reports, which show that myopia has become more common among kids and teenagers in recent years,” added Mahipal Singh Sachdev, Chairman and Managing Director, Center for Sight, New Delhi.

Mahipal told IANS that seeing less natural light when one is indoors has an impact on one’s eye health as well. The experts also attributed the blame to changes in lifestyle brought about by urbanization, such as an increase in near-work activities like reading and studying and long near-work periods brought on by challenging academic environments in urban areas.

“Genetic predisposition also matters; it’s possible that urban populations have a higher prevalence of genetic risk factors linked to myopia. These all factors put a lot of pressure and strain to our eyes, retina, and nerves, as a result of which the incidences are gradually rising,” Mahipal said.

The symptoms include headaches, weariness, fuzzy vision, eyestrain, and trouble seeing distant objects—especially after extended screen use. The specialists pointed out that the sharp increase in childhood myopia cases can be attributed to sedentary lifestyles, more screen use, and a decrease in outdoor activities.

Source: M3 India

“Excessive screen time stimulates the eyes, retina, and brain of children, leading to accelerated myopic changes due to rapid eyeball growth,” Sr.Smit said.

Based on the current trend, they project that one in two youngsters in the nation will be myopic by 2050. According to studies, India’s urban children’s incidence of myopia quadrupled in 20 years, from 4.44 percent to 21.15 percent, between 1999 and 2019.

The experts recommended public health campaigns, education programs, lifestyle changes, and improved access to eye care services to address the growing health concern.

“Recognizing the symptoms of myopia in children is important for early intervention. While the condition cannot be cured, it can be helped with glasses or contact lenses,” said Smit, calling for regular eye check-ups and encouraging children to participate in outdoor activities.

While there is no treatment for the illness, wearing glasses or contact lenses can assist. After the age of 19, laser vision correction therapy is still an option. However, it’s crucial to get routine eye exams, encourage kids to spend time outside in order to balance screen usage, and think about therapies like atropine eye drops or myopia control eyewear to stop myopia from getting worse.

Early detection and treatment of myopia in children is crucial, since any postponement may result in amblyopia, often known as lazy eye syndrome.

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