Scientists to examine growing problem of myopia

Apart from the coronavirus, there is also a raging epidemic of short-sightedness. According to Prof. Robert Rejdak, the head of the Department of General Ophthalmology SPSK1 in Lublin, an already bleak situation has been made worse by remote learning introduced during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Interviewed by the Polish Press Agency, Prof. Rejdak stressed that the problem of myopia was already noticeable on all continents before the coronavirus pandemic. “It most commonly affects Asia, where 95 percent of the population is affected by myopia. Whereas before the pandemic in Europe, it was estimated to affect 50 percent of college graduates”.

Estimates from before the pandemic also show that around 30 per cent of early school-age children struggled with myopia. “However, already now, on the basis of the population of patients of ophthalmological surgeries, we estimate that this percentage may have increased by up to 20 percent. Remote learning certainly had a large impact on this,” Professor Rejdak pointed out.

The current scale of myopia among schoolchildren is to be investigated through a myopia prevention programme that will be conducted by a team of experts from the Medical University of Lublin led by Professor Rejdak.

“Our study can be called pioneering, as it is one of the first such projects in Europe. In the first stage, screening tests will cover 900 children from grades 1-3 from the Lublin region. 60 teachers and 450 parents of the children will also be examined by programme,” Prof. Rejdak stated.

The programme will be implemented in the fourth quarter of this year. Sight screening tests will be carried out in schools with the use of top-class equipment and technology. A refraction test will be carried out on the spot, and in selected cases in the ophthalmology clinic, among others, eye image assessment on the basis of digital photos. Their results will be processed using artificial intelligence technology.

As he stressed, he hopes that this is only the first stage of sight tests among pupils. “If we show that this system works and that it has proved itself in the Lublin region, then in the following months the ministry will consider extending this programme to the whole country,” the ophthalmologist added.

Asked how to prevent myopia in children, he replied that the most important thing is to spend 2-3 hours a day in natural light, i.e. outside the house, in the fresh air. “The idea is to give the eyesight a rest from electronic equipment, then we also naturally look away. The role of natural light is proven to be the most important thing in preventing the development of myopia,” the professor stressed.

He also recommends the “3 to 1 rule”, which consists of working for 30 minutes and then giving your eyes rest for the next 10 minutes and looking, for example, out the window - into the distance, at greenery. “It is also important not to shy away from specialist examinations, because with the proper correction or pharmacological methods, it is possible to stop myopia from progressing,” said the ophthalmologist.