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Pediatrics

Study looks at children’s refractive errors and visual behaviors post-pandemic

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Post-COVID-19 vision surveys in a primary school revealed that refractive astigmatism, axial length, and myopia in 8- to 10-year-old Hong Kong children remained elevated compared with pre-pandemic levels. Despite the resumption of in-person teaching, children’s near-work time (a potential risk factor for myopia and refractive astigmatism) increased and astigmatism remained high.

The findings underscore the need to focus collective efforts on managing children’s visual behaviors to mitigate environmental risk factors for refractive errors. Long-term studies are also crucial to ascertain the enduring impact of the pandemic on children’s ocular health, the researchers reported.

The study explored whether children’s refractive errors and visual behaviors reverted to pre-COVID-19 levels a year after normal schooling resumed in Hong Kong. It also evaluated the impact of corneal and internal astigmatism on refractive astigmatism development. Vision survey data and questionnaire results collected in 2022 (n = 119) and 2020 (n = 173) were compared. Cross-sectional data showed similar proportions of astigmatism (cylindrical power ≥ 0.75 D) in the 2020 (49.1%) and 2022 cohorts (55.5%). Results demonstrated that despite a 0.28D increase in corneal astigmatism, a compensatory 0.24D increase in internal astigmatism of opposite direction kept refractive astigmatism relatively stable. In addition, the questionnaire data showed that children spent an additional 0.5 hours a day outdoors on weekends when they resumed normal schooling but engaged in more near-work activities, especially non-screen near-work, by about 1 hour per day on both weekdays and weekends. These findings were supported by longitudinal data from 72 children who participated in both surveys.

Reference:
Liang Y, Kang BS, Kee CS, Leung TW. Compensatory interactions between corneal and internal astigmatism despite lifestyle changes. Children (Basel);11(2):154. doi:10.3390/children11020154

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