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Allowing children stare at phones for too much is a pandemic waiting to happen – Eye surgeons warn

Top eye surgeons are warning that soaring numbers of children are in danger of going blind because of too much time staring at mobile phones and too little time outside

Allowing children stare at phones for too much is a pandemic waiting to happen - Eye surgeons warn
Allowing children stare at phones for too much is a pandemic waiting to happen – Eye surgeons warn

Children as young as four are wearing special contact lenses to counter the growing problem with doctors increasingly seeing teenagers with the worst possible score for short-sightedness.

It is thought that the worrying increase is a result of children straining to look at mobile phones up close while not spending enough time focusing on further distances outside in daylight.

Dr John Bolger, a consultant ophthalmologist and director of a private eye clinic in North London, says he is deeply concerned by the rise in children developing short-sightedness, known as myopia, describing it as a ‘pandemic’.

He told the Mail: ‘There are more and more myopic children coming into the clinic. It’s going up and up. There’s no slowing down from what I can see.

‘Myopia is not just having to wear glasses, people can go blind from myopia. This is not a trivial event, this is a serious threat.’

The surgeon explained that extended periods of looking at screens can lead to elongation of the eyeball – and that the effects of the Covid pandemic have exacerbated ‘a pandemic of myopia’.

Not spending enough time outside also hinders a child’s exposure to natural light, which is essential for regulating the growth of the eyeball and reducing the risk of myopia.

He said: ‘We’ve had children who’ve said four or five days passed during lockdown when they didn’t step outside the front door, and I’m absolutely convinced that there are many of them who would not be myopic had it not been for lockdown.

‘We’ve got children as young as four or five wearing contact lenses and children with as much as -20 prescription, and this causes very significant challenges for how they live their lives. It’s not easy. It is a disability, there’s no other way of saying it.’

Dr Bolger said that some of his young patients sleep wearing special contact lenses that change the shape of the cornea. It slows down the progression of myopia and allows them to see normally when they wake up.

Last week, Prince William called for people to spend less time on their phones, saying ‘we have got to be better at it’ while visiting the opening of a new youth club in White City, London.

He said ‘the grownups are guilty of it too’ when one youngster confessed to scrolling for too long.

Research shows that myopia has doubled over the last 50 years in the UK and that children are becoming myopic at younger ages, with over a quarter of 15-to-16 year olds now having myopia.

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