Excessive gadget use increases risk of myopia in kids

By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

May 5, 2019, 4:26 pm

MANILA -- At nine years old, Jonas (not his real name) already suffers from myopia or nearsightedness, a condition which is hereditary but can now be acquired through excessive use of computer and gadgets.

"Kasi hindi namin mapigilan siya lalo na kapag tapos na ang klase (We can't stop him especially after classes) and weekends, we notice him play games in his cellphone, close to his eyes. I thought he might need eyeglasses already," Jonas' mother told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

She added that she had Jonas checked by an ophthalmologist after his class adviser reported to her that he's unable to finish copying notes from the board on time.


At the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s National Digital Parenting Conference in 2018, ophthalmologist Dr. Alexander L. Gonzales II of the Ospital ng Makati, said studies indicate that 29 percent of Filipino children suffer from myopia while only 5 percent of American kids suffer from the disease.

Gonzales added that 90 percent of frequent mobile or online gamers have myopia.

"Someone who has myopia see nearby objects clearly, and far objects blurred. Why? His or her eyes cannot bend light properly and therefore light is focused in front of his retina," he said.

Digital age

While the digital age may have paved way for an era of comfort and convenience for people, Dr. Maria Fe Marquez, an optometrist at Eye World, said it has caused numerous eye problems that affect the young ones.

"Ang paggamit ng gadgets ay talagang nakaka-trigger ng pagkalabo ng mata. Dito nalang sa aming clinic eh, dumami ang mga batang patients na malabo ang mga mata, mga elementary at high school students, hindi kagaya dati na madalas, eh mga matatanda na talaga ang nagpapa-adjust ng grado ng salamin (Gadget use really triggers blurred vision. Here in our clinic, young patients have increased, elementary and high school students, unlike before only older patients have their prescription eyeglasses adjusted), she added.

Marquez said the radiation or blue light emitted by gadgets and other electronics like cellphones, computers and televisions causes severe eye diseases.

"Sa ngayon, hindi natin mapapansin agad pero in due time makikita na ang lumalalang effect nito sa mga mata habang tumatanda ang isang tao (Now, it [eye problem] is not noticed right away but in due time the severe effects in the eyes will be noticed while a person grows older)," she added.

Dr. Maria Fe Marquez, an optometrist at Eye World, says most children today have blurred vision and other eye problems due to excessive use of smartphones and tablets to play games or watch YouTube. (Photo by Ma. Teresa Montemayor)

In a recent health forum in Makati City, Dr. Jamid Jan bin Jan Mohamed, chairman of the Nutrition & Diabetics Program at University Sains Malaysia, stressed that excessive use of gadgets makes the eyes age prematurely.

"Too much use of gadgets causes exposure to radiation, it gives you eye strain, neck and shoulder strain, and headache as well," he said.

In connection with this, Marquez explained blurred vision and eye ageing usually start from dry eyes.

"Kapag lagi nakatutok sa gadget, bihira nang pumikit ang mga mata, nagkakaroon din ng dry eyes. Sintomas niyan ang mga mata makati, nanunuyo at naluluha. At kapag sobrang tuyo ang mata nagkakaroon na rin ng blurred vision (When focused on the gadget, the eyes seldom blink, dry eyes also occur. The symptoms include itchy, dry and teary eyes. Blurred vision happens when dry eyes is severe)," she said.

Eyeglasses, supplements

While wearing of multi-coated eyeglasses can prevent radiation from penetrating the eyes, Marquez advised that it is best to lessen gadget use to prevent blurred vision and other eye problems.

"Alam mo, tama na ang isang oras sa isang araw na paggamit ng gadgets sa mga bata talaga (You know, one hour use of gadgets for kids is really enough)," she said.

Meanwhile, Mohammed advised on taking supplements with lutein, vitamins A, C and E and antioxidants.

"If we can't keep ourselves from using gadgets for long hours, you need to have another nutrient called lutein filter high energy from light, it protects and maintains healthy cells in the eyes. Supplements can help prevent blurred vision," he said. (PNA)