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‘Epidemic’ of nearsightedness among children alarms DOH

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
âEpidemicâ of nearsightedness among children alarms DOH
While the number of Filipinos who become blind due to cataract has been going down since 2007, Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said the agency sees a rise in visual impairment among school-age children due to the use of gadgets like mobile phones and tablets.

MANILA, Philippines — Describing it as an “epidemic,” the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday expressed alarm over the growing number of children suffering from myopia or nearsightedness because of constant use of gadgets.

While the number of Filipinos who become blind due to cataract has been going down since 2007, Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said the agency sees a rise in visual impairment among school-age children due to the use of gadgets like mobile phones and tablets.

An opthalmologist, Domingo noted that more schoolchildren now need to wear eyeglasses because of myopia or error of refraction, a condition commonly known as nearsightedness.

“It’s not contagious. But we see that it’s on an epidemic proportion already, especially in developed cities like Metro Manila and Metro Cebu,” he said in connection with the observance of August as Sight Saving Month.

Some 20 years ago, he claimed only 10 percent of schoolchildren worldwide were wearing eyeglasses. But based on a study presented recently by an international agency, the figure went up to an “alarming” 30 percent.

“This means that one out of three school-age children has blurred vision if they do not wear eyeglasses. This is very high and alarming,” Domingo said.

He cautioned that children who are so into gadgets and at the same time have parents who are myopic tend to have higher degree of nearsightedness.

Domingo said gadgets have use for many parents – as “babysitter” – to keep their children occupied. But what the parents do not realize is that constant use of gadgets can hamper development of a child’s eyesight.

“If before, genetics was the primary reason for a child to have myopia, now it is the internet, or the gadgets. The muscles of their eyes get so used to looking at objects at close range,” he maintained.

Because of this, the eyes’ muscles could not adjust to far sight.

Domingo advised parents to let their children engage in outdoor activities for at least one hour a day to let their farsightedness be utilized, too.

He added that sunlight also greatly helps in the development of a child’s eyesight.

NEARSIGHTEDNESS

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