17, Nov 2023
L V Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) shines spotlight on refractive errors in children: the overlooked vision challenge
1. As part of the Children’s Eye Care Week (13-19 November), L V Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI), through its dedicated Children’s Eye Care Centres across its network, organizes various activities to raise awareness about refractive errors in children.
2. Uncorrected refractive error is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide; 20% of India’s total visually impaired population suffers from uncorrected refractive errors.
3. 1-3-5, Give Good Eye Sight: An eye examination at one, three, and five years is paramount to early diagnosis and treatment of refractive errors and other eye problems in Children.
4. LVPEI is organizing the Children’s Eye Care Walk on Sunday, 19th November 2023, at 7:00 am, starting from its Kallam Anji Reddy Campus, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad.
Hyderabad, November 2023: Refractive errors occur due to natural differences in eyeball sizes, affecting how we process the images. To understand it, we can imagine our eye as a camera and the retina as its film – refractive errors occur when the eye’s shape doesn’t let light focus correctly on this “film” at the back of the eyes. Types of refractive errors include Myopia (nearsightedness), hypermetropia (farsightedness), and astigmatism (eye focus well in one direction). Children with these conditions often struggle with basic daily tasks. They may experience frequent headaches, eyestrain, and fatigue while reading and may even develop squint as they adapt to the refractive errors.
Recent data underscores the global significance of uncorrected refractive errors, emerging as a leading cause of blindness. In India, this concern is starkly evident, with 20% of visually impaired individuals grappling with unaddressed refractive errors—an alarming statistic that demands urgent attention. Particularly, the escalating prevalence of Myopia paints a dire picture. Without proactive measures, projections indicate that nearly half of the world’s population (5 billion) will be affected by 2050. The gravity of the situation is further highlighted in urban India, where an anticipated 48% of children may battle Myopia by 2050, transcending mere vision concerns to crystallize as a looming public health crisis.
The reasons for the surge in refractive errors are complex. Genetics play a role, with a higher likelihood of Myopia if one or both parents have it. Environmental factors, such as prolonged near-work, excessive screen time, and insufficient outdoor activities, predispose one to Myopia. Exposure to dust and smoke can cause eye allergies, and constant eye rubbing can increase the risk of astigmatism. The impact of these conditions on children is profound. Children adapt to their blurred vision, adjusting to close-range activities and avoiding tasks that require sharp focus, affecting their academic performance and taking a toll on their psychological well-being.
Dr Rohan Nalawade, Pediatric Ophthalmologist at LVPEI Hyderabad, emphasizes the significance of recognizing tell-tale symptoms of refractive errors, urging immediate consultation with an eye specialist upon their observation. “These crucial indicators include reading or watching television at a close distance, experiencing difficulty in seeing the blackboard clearly at school, frequent headaches and eyestrain, and squeezing or squinting of the eyes. Ignoring these signs may compromise visual health, making early intervention imperative for optimal eye care.”
Diagnosis and Treatment of Refractive Errors:
Eye examinations at one, three, and five years are paramount to diagnosing and treating refractive errors early. Thankfully, refractive errors are treatable with simple solutions like glasses or contact lenses. But, regular follow-ups to check for changes in glass prescription, treatment of lazy eye, and treatment of progressive refractive errors are crucial to ensuring optimal vision.
The following preventive measures can help in preventing refractive errors in our children:
1) Manage Screen Time: We encourage you to balance screen use and physical activities. A safe amount of screen time varies by age. Indian Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children below two years should not be exposed to any screen. Further, exposure should be limited to one hour of supervised screen time per day for children between two and under five years of age and less than two hours per day for children 6-10.
2) Encourage Outdoor Time: Children spending at least 60 minutes outdoors daily reduce their risk of Myopia by over 14%. Therefore, ophthalmologists promote outdoor play for overall well-being.
3) Follow the 20-20-20 Rule: Break every 20 minutes of near work with a 20-second break, focusing on an object 20 feet away. It helps relieve eye strain and discomfort.
4) Optimal Reading Habits: Maintain a 15-inch distance and a 60-degree angle while reading. Ensure well-lit environments to prevent eye strain.
“Undiagnosed and untreated refractive errors can lead to delayed milestones in children and negatively impact their academic performance, participation in co-curricular activities, and social behavior. Children with Myopia are at a higher risk of developing retinal detachment, glaucoma, cataracts and other eye diseases. Some of these eye disorders can result in irreversible vision loss. Hence, it is the collective responsibility of families, teachers, doctors, healthcare organizations, and government to ensure children’s health and well-being,” says Dr Ramesh Kekunnaya, Head, Child Sight Institute, L V Prasad Eye Institute.
As part of Children’s Eye Care Week, LVPEI invites you to participate in the Children’s Eye Care Walk on Sunday, 19th November 2023, at 7:00 am, starting from its Kallam Anji Reddy Campus, Hyderabad. Join us in creating awareness; through timely diagnosis and treatment of refractive errors in children, we can give them a ‘Clear Vision for a Bright Future’.