Pandemic lockdowns causing spike in myopia

Myopia (short-sightedness) is already one of the most prevalent eye problems affecting children and contributes to the likelihood of eye diseases like glaucoma, macular degeneration, and possible blindness in the elderly.

Lockdowns have increased the prevalence of Myopia and speeded up its progression.

What causes myopia?

Myopia is caused by refraction errors in the eye which cause light to focus in front of the retina rather than on it, resulting in blurred distance vision. It usually develops in early childhood, because of genetics or lifestyle factors and gets progressively worse until it levels sometime in the late 20s and can cause major eye problems later in life. Myopia can increase the lifetime risks of serious eye conditions including myopic maculopathy, retinal detachment, cataracts and glaucoma.

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Impact of lockdowns on children’s eyesight


Lockdown regulations have seen children spend more time inside, watching TV, studying online, and making long calls or sending lengthy messages on their mobile devices to keep in contact with friends. These activities worked against some of the most important aspects of myopia management, which prioritise spending at least 2 hours a day outside, and restricting access to screens.

What to look for

Parents and optometrists can lessen lockdown after-effects and help prevent the possible spike in the myopia curve. Parents need to keep a close eye on their children’s activities, monitor screen time, and watch for signs of short-sightedness.

Signs to look out for include:

  1. Your child may complain of blurry vision, for instance they may not be able to read what is on the board at school.
  1. You may notice them squinting when looking at things in the distance, or squinting in general.
  1. They are frequently rubbing their eyes
  1. Your child may be experiencing frequent headaches.

A child’s first eye test should be before starting school, and at regular intervals after that.

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New treatments available


Myopia treatments have moved towards the use of specially designed contact lenses of various types, including both multi-focus and single distance lenses.

Orthokeratology uses a contact lens as part of an overnight treatment program. This lens is gas-permeable and temporarily reshapes the cornea, and if properly used on a nightly basis, has been shown to enable myopes (individuals with myopia) to not have to wear glasses during the day.

Atropine eye drops (available on prescription) can help slow the progression of myopia for some children.

It is important to chat about these myopia control options with your child’s optometrist.