Eye exams should be part of back-to-school routine, specialists say

File photo. An optometrist's office. Global News

The COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying challenges have meant considerably more screen time for adults and young people alike — and according to the Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS), it’s causing a notable uptick in complaints of eye problems.

An August COS study suggests 34 per cent of Canadians have complained of worsened eyesight, dry eyes and other related issues after more than a year of unconventional working and learning.

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Dr. Gdih Gdih, a Winnipeg glaucoma and anterior segment surgeon, told 680 CJOB those results aren’t a surprise at all.

“Given the pandemic and the need for using screen time increasing — especially the remote school learning — that was to be anticipated,” he said.

“Especially for children — I would say the ones who are less than nine years old, in particular — they have to be watched for eye problems, especially increasing myopia.

“When you increase the screen time, myopia becomes an issue, which is shortsightedness.”

Gdih said now that children are back in school, it’s something teachers can watch for in the classroom — if a student is putting their face into a book to write or read, or if they’re squinting their eyes when attempting to look at something far away, those are warning signs.

“They should be sending a note to the families to tell them to test their (children’s) eyes,” he said.

Read more: Too much screen time, not enough sunlight creating vision ‘epidemic’ says Winnipeg optometrist

The COS study calls for routine eye exams to become a regular part of Canadians’ back-to-school routines, something Gdih said he agrees with, although there are roadblocks.

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“Part of it is finances, part of it is fear, especially during the pandemic — everyone is skeptical about going out,” he said.

“But I think it’s crucially important. The survey of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society did show some significant concerns about eyesight problems, but we don’t know yet — we won’t know the extent of this problem until probably a few years from now.

“We have to warn people about their eyes and hopefully people can take the message and act on it.”

Click to play video: 'Optometrists are concerned over children’s extended screentime during pandemic' Optometrists are concerned over children’s extended screentime during pandemic
Optometrists are concerned over children’s extended screentime during pandemic – Aug 31, 2021


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