Mobile phones to blame for high rate of myopia among students: Doctor

PHOTO: Mobile phones to blame for high rate of myopia among students: Doctor

TAIWAN - Around two-thirds of the country's sixth-graders are myopic, and so are more than one-fifth of the first graders, a survey shows.

According to the 2010 survey commissioned by the Department of Health's Bureau of Health Promotion and conducted by National Taiwan University Hospital, 65 per cent of the country's sixth-graders are myopic, of whom 3.4 per cent are seriously so, and 21.5 per cent of the first-graders are nearsighted.

Prolonged gazing at objects up close, such as smart phone displays and tablet computers, strains the eyes, especially those of growing children, Fu Chou-ching, ophthalmologist and ORBIS Taiwan volunteer, said yesterday.

Some 2- to 3-year-olds already have learned to surf the Web and play their parents' mobile games, Fu said, adding that these children's eyesight could be impaired as time goes on.

"I have seen a mother bringing her 3-year-old son to the ophthalmology outpatient department, who came after finding the child has to squint when he watches television," Fu said, adding the toddler's myopia was about 100 degrees then.

Early onset of myopia could be followed by a 100-degree increase each year and lead to serious nearsightedness in adolescence, which could in turn cause retinopathy and macular hemorrhage in adulthood, Fu warned, adding having to wear eyeglasses is just a minor nuisance.

About three per cent of all preschoolers have weak eyesight and treatment should be given to them as early as possible.

According to Fu, Orbis Taiwan will visit the country's 2,700 elementary school next year to conduct surveys and educate the children about their eyes.