Tue, Feb 25, 2014 - Page 5 News List

Playing on smartphones damages children’s eyes

UNHEALTHY:While it may seem a good way to distract children when parents are busy, the blue emissions from smartphones can cause myopia and cataracts in children

By Wei Yi-chia and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Blue light emissions from electronic products can easily harm children’s eyes and cause cataracts, ophthalmologists warned parents, as an increasing number of children are being taken to hospitals and clinics with eye problems.

Changhua County Show Chwan Healthcare System vice superintendent Lin Hung-yu (林浤裕) said there was a recent case in which a kindergarten-aged child had played on his mother’s cellphone every day for several months. After noticing the child squinting at everything, the parents took him to the clinic.

The child had initially been diagnosed with high myopia, a condition which doctors later ruled out because it is congenital and both parents had mild myopia, Lin said.

After further questioning, the parents revealed that both had been busy at work and often worked from home as well.

“This lifestyle left them little time to spend with their children, and whenever the child started crying for attention, the parents gave him the cellphone to play on, as it usually quietened him down,” Lin said.

The situation had devolved to the situation where the child became addicted to the phone and wanted to play on it even when the parents were not busy, Lin said, adding that the boy usually spent more than half an hour a day on the cellphone.

Due to the lengthy periods the boy spent staring closely at the screen, his ciliary muscles had lost the capability to adjust to things in the distance. He was later diagnosed with pseudomyopia, Lin said.

Lin said that after three months of treatment using a ciliary muscle relaxant, the boy was in the low myopia range.

Myopia, or simple myopia, is a condition in which sight begins to blur when looking at things in the distance, and it can be improved with corrective lenses.

Pseudomyopia is a condition in which spasms of the ciliary muscles cause the person to develop symptoms similar to simple myopia, but which can be treated by relaxing the ciliary muscle through methods such as relaxants.

Lin said more than 30 percent of children who have come to the clinic with eye problems had been playing on their mothers’ cellphones.

He added that if parents did not curb the tendency, the children could go develop high myopia.

Tri-Service General Hospital head of ophthalmology Lu Ta-wen (呂大文) said rates of children with pseudomyopia tended to peak after the winter and summer vacations.

During this period, the children spent more time at home and often spend too much time using electronic devices, Lu said.

“Blue light emitted by electronic products can easily cause cataracts to form and may also harm the macula lutea,” Lu said.

He said that it was best not to let children under the age of six use any electronic products.

“The vision of children who develop myopia tends to deteriorate quickly, and they should not be allowed to use smartphones for more than 40 or 50 minutes without taking a break for at least 10 minutes,” Lu said.

Lu also suggested parents be careful when treating myopia in children, as it may sometimes be pseudomyopia and was not true nearsightedness.

Parents should let an ophthalmologist examine their children before taking them to get glasses, he added.

Lu also suggested frequent outings or spending lots of time outdoors, looking at things far away and trying to relax the ciliary muscles to avoid worsening myopia, adding that vegetables and fruits, which are good for the eyes, should be a regular part of children’s diet.

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