The eyewear retailer Warby Parker made big news this week when it filed for a direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange. As part of the filing, Warby offered a detailed look at the company’s finances and said that people spending more time with screens would be good for business. “The rising usage of smartphones, tablets, computers and other devices has contributed significantly to increased vision correction needs and consistent new customer growth within the eyewear market,” the company said in the filing. Screen time over the last 18 months has indeed skyrocketed, especially for children, resulting in a concerning uptick in myopia, digital eye strain and screen addiction.

Childhood myopia is increasing at a rapid rate, with 1 in 3 children now affected, and the recent shift in lifestyle as a result of COVID-19 has worsened the issue.  A recent survey conducted by Global Myopia Awareness Coalition (GMAC) found that only 25 percent of parents have taken their child/children to visit the eye doctor since the pandemic began, despite an increase in screen time and change in lifestyle habits. Myopia, or nearsightedness, is an irreversible disease affecting the ability to clearly see objects that are farther away, and it will continue to worsen and impact children’s ability to do their best if not treated early on.

GMAC, formed in early 2019, is composed of leading ophthalmic companies and eye health associations that agree on a clear need for greater public awareness about childhood myopia. Here are some fast facts about myopia and some topline results from the GMAC survey:

  • Since the pandemic most children haven't complained about health issues but close to 2 in 10 complained about fatigue and increased headaches.

  • Myopia is now treatable—so parents don't have to watch it get worse—and can schedule a comprehensive eye exam with an eye doctor to ask about new treatment options that can slow the progression of the disease.

  • 50 percent of parents report that their children spent more than 4 hours using electronic devices during the pandemic, compared to 18 percent of parents reporting the same behavior prior to the pandemic.

  • Only 56 percent of parents are worried about their child/children’s eyesight and 72 percent trust their pediatrician will flag any issues regarding their eyesight.
“Many researchers believe too much time spent on video screens and digital devices, combined with other near work, not enough time outside, and genetics are risk factors for myopia. And our recent remote lifestyle has increased these behaviors,” said Millicent Knight, OD, SVP, Customer Development Group at Essilor of America. Dr. Knight has a diverse and extensive background in the eyecare industry, including hospital-based ophthalmology/optometry with hospital privileges, and she is the owner of two optometric practices.

Source: GMAC Survey

The GMAC survey also revealed that only 19 percent of parents took their children to the optometrist during the pandemic, and only 7 percent took their children to the ophthalmologist.

“Encouraging parents to make annual comprehensive eye exams is just as much of a priority as routine pediatrician appointments and will help diagnose myopia early on and prevent it from getting worse over time. In addition, it is critical that optometrists and ophthalmologists start the conversation with parents early about myopia. Like dentists and orthodontists talk to parents about the benefits of braces before they are needed, optometrists should educate parents about myopia before treatment is ever needed,” Knight observed. 

Knight said that despite parents not making eye exam appointments, “they do recognize this increase in screen time will have an impact on their children’s eyesight, with the majority actively encouraging their children to take screen breaks, go outside during the day and to opt for books instead of digital devices at bedtime.

“With an uptick in screen time due to remote learning and limited outdoor activities, there has been little time to give eyes a rest, a key practice that can help prevent myopia from progressing. Frequent breaks improve focus and productivity, and it is recommended that kids get at least 2 hours of outdoor time every day to help either prevent the onset of myopia or possibly reduce its progression,” she said.

GMAC is demonstrating the importance annual eye doctor visits have in slowing the progression of myopia and raising awareness of new treatment options though this new video.

“There are many new treatment options on the market—beyond conventional glasses and contacts—that may help slow the progression of myopia, including special contact lenses, prescription eye drops and more. As myopia rates rise, we are confident that there will also continue to be advancements made in the space and additional treatment options will become available,” Dr. Knight concluded. 

Source: CompareTheMarket

Resources for ECPs
For a more in-depth look at how the pandemic has impacted screen usage, click here to access a guide to screen addiction and responsible digital use. For a more in-depth look at how the pandemic has impacted screen usage, click here to access a guide to screen addiction and responsible digital use from CompareTheMarket, a U.K. price comparison website.

The International Myopia Institute (IMI) has developed the IMI Facts and Findings Infographic for practitioners based on the IMI white papers published in 2019 and 2021. The IMI Facts and Findings Infographic is intended to raise awareness about myopia as a public health issue while providing a useful chairside reference of key myopia management evidence-based information easily accessed by practitioners.

The IMI White Papers were authored by over 100 experts in the field of myopia, and comprehensively cover a range of areas including: definitions and classifications, genetics, experimental models, interventions, risk factors, impact of myopia, accommodation and binocular vision, myopia control trials and instrumentation, industry guidelines and ethical considerations, pathologic myopia, clinical management guidelines, and a yearly digest update.

The IMI Facts and Findings Infographic can be downloaded for free at