Tue, Jul 09, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Retinal detachment an increasing risk with rising myopia

By Lin Hui-chin and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Officials from the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Health Promotion Administration and guests hold inflatable mallets inscribed with slogans at a news conference in Taipei yesterday to promote awareness of excessive smartphone use by children.

Photo: CNA

A junior-high school student who used a smartphone for 90 minutes per day for three years developed myopia that led to retinal detachment, a doctor said yesterday.

The student, surnamed Lee (李), developed myopia in grade 2 and by grade 8 this year, had a diopter — a unit of measurement of the refractive power of a corrective lens — of 625 degrees.

After noticing her vision was blurry, Lee consulted an optometrist who said that the retina in her left eye had detached and a small hole had been torn in it.

Surgery was required to rectify the problem.

Approximately 9 percent of kindergarten-age children and 19.8 percent of children in grade 1 have myopia, said Lin Yi-ching (林宜靜), director of women’s and children’s health at the Health Promotion Administration.

In grade 2, 38.7 percent have the condition and it keeps rising through grade 6 (70.6 percent) and grade 9 (89.3 percent), Lin said.

The administration defines “high myopia” as a diopter of more than 500 degrees, which applies to 10.3 percent of children in grade 6, 28 percent of children in children in grade 9 and 35.7 percent in grade 12, she said.

Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital ophthalmologist Wu Pei-chang (吳佩昌) said that people with a diopter of more than 300 degrees are 10 times as likely to experience retinal detachment, while more than 500 degrees brings a 40-fold increased risk.

The prevalence of myopia and high myopia in Taiwan must not be taken lightly, Wu said.

Eleven to 14 hours of outdoor activity per week can reduce the onset of myopia by 55 percent, he said, adding that even one hour per week could reduce the risk by 2 percent.

Outdoor activity exposes the retina to natural light, which stimulates the natural development of children’s eyes, he said. Outdoor activity also facilitates dopamine production, which helps prevent lateral stretching of the eyes.

Ophthalmological Society of Taiwan secretary-general Tsai Chieh-chih (蔡傑智) said that there is a particular risk of myopia worsening during long breaks from school, when children spend more time playing on smartphones and other electronic devices.

Parents must be vigilant about balancing their children’s activities over the holidays, Tsai said.

Before 10am and after 4pm are the best times for outdoor activities, he said.

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