Pandemic Impact: Low vitamin D levels noted in children with new onset of progressive Myopia

-Study conducted by Sankara Eye Hospital on 51 children in the age group of 8-14 years-

09/20/2022: A recent study conducted by Sankara Eye Hospital has uncovered vitamin D3 deficiency in children, which may contribute to progressive myopia. The study, conducted over a 6-month period between January and July 2022, looked at children aged 8 to 14 (31 boys and 20 girls) and found that serum vitamin D3 levels were deficient (<20 ng/ml ) in 38 children. Normal levels above 30 ng/ml were found in only 13 children. The study shed light on the potential use of vitamin D3 levels in protocols treating children with progressive myopia. This study was conducted by Dr. Sowmya R., Specialist, Department of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, Sankara Eye Hospital. A meta-analysis by the Hong Kong group had also shown that low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of myopia.

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Myopia is a common cause of visual impairment in school-age children. The incidence of myopia is estimated at 5.3% in Indian children and 35.6% in adults. It is one of the most common causes of vision loss, which manifests itself as early as childhood and can progress over the years. Against this background, it is essential to identify factors that can be influenced in the development and progression of myopia in order to minimize the progression in childhood itself.

dr Sowmya R., Medical Specialist, Department of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, Sankara Eye Hospital, Bengaluru, commented on the study: “Given the increasing prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in India and its impact on multiple body systems, we sought to identify a possible link between vitamin D deficiency and the recent rise in progressive myopia in children. Vitamin D levels are considered a surrogate marker for sun exposure. Sunlight exposure and time spent outdoors have been shown to be key factors in the progression of myopia. As the pandemic has devastated all of our lives in the last 2 to 2.5 years, it has prevented all of us from home, more so the children and children. Now, as the children come for follow-up, we have found low levels of vitamin D in most new-onset myopia or rapidly progressing myopia. This can be attributed to zero due to minimal sun exposure and outdoor activities in children.

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We examined vitamin D levels in these children and found low vitamin D levels in all children who showed progression, with almost 38/51 children having low vitamin D levels. (Data from January to July 2022).

A previous study of ours on vitamin D levels in children with progressive myopia treated with low-dose atropine, showing progression (>0.5 D increase over the last 6 months), had also shown similar results. Almost 15 of 20 children who received low-dose atropine for progressive myopia had previously demonstrated low vitamin D levels. Given that vitamin D 3 levels are related to sun exposure, levels may act as a surrogate marker for outdoor activities or as an independent factor in children with progressive myopia.

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Our pilot study shed light on the potential use of vitamin D3 levels in our protocols in treating children with progressive myopia”- adds dr Sowmya R. added.

Therefore it is highly recommended Monitor vitamin D levels in children. Most importantly, parents must ensure that children get at least 90 minutes of sunlight exposure every day, as a lack of vitamin D can lead to visual impairment and other health complications.

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