During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when hospitals reported dwindling ICU space, social distancing and virtual schooling were a necessity. And while those methods likely did limit the spread of the virus, they created their own deleterious effects. For developing eyes in school-age children, converting from a 7-hour in-person school day to a 7-hour screen-based school day may have played a role in growing rates of asthenopia and convergence insufficiency, according to a report presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology 2021 meeting in New Orleans, held November 12-15.
Researchers asked 110 students (ages 10-17) with no history of ocular pathology, to complete a modified convergence insufficiency symptom survey (CISS), and an asthenopia survey both before and after a virtual school session.
The report shows that 61% of the participants experienced an increase in symptoms of convergence insufficiency after a virtual school day, with 17% of children categorized as having severe symptoms. The average sum of the CISS scores increased from 5.17 before school, to 9.82 after school (P ≤.0001).
Computer-based asthenopia, also called ocular fatigue, symptoms also increased in the study, from a score of 1.58 before school, to 2.74 after school (P ≤.0001), with more than half of the participants (53%) recording an increase in asthenopia symptoms.
According to the researchers, the usefulness of virtual schooling may have either run its course, or the measure could benefit from a strategy to protect developing eyes.
“Healthy children are experiencing acute ocular symptoms from virtual school,” they reported. “Digital education needs to be restructured to reduce ocular symptoms and create a better environment for children’s learning.”
Hamburger JL, Lavrich JB, Rusakevich A, et al. The visual consequences of virtual school: acute eye symptoms in healthy children. Paper presented at: The American Academy of Ophthalmology 2021 Annual Meeting; November 12-15; New Orleans. Abstract PA016.
This article originally appeared on Ophthalmology Advisor