Study reports increased myopia by up to four times among children in China

Study reports increased myopia by up to four times among children in China

With the pandemic and the need for social isolation, children around the world began to stay longer at home. A daily life with longer time in front of screens and less outdoor activities in leisure moments. The “new normal”, experienced a year and a half ago, is already paying its price: the growth of myopia among children aged 6 to 8 years in China.

study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Jama), with 123 thousand children and teenagers, showed up to four-fold growth in the number of diagnoses during the pandemic compared to previous years.

Learn about the research, the data raised and what are the recommendations of experts to slow the growth of the disease among young people.


The research


Researchers examined 123 thousand children and teenagers, from 6 to 13 years old, in schools in Feicheng, China, in 2020. The evaluation technique used was photoscreening, a camera that analyzes the eyes and does not require pupil dilation.

Children aged 6 years were the ones who suffered the most from the increase in myopia: from 5.7%, between 2015 and 2019, to 21.5% in 2020. The 7-year-olds, in the same period, showed a raise from 16.2% to 26.2% and the 8-year-olds, from 27.7% to 37.2%. The increased degree of myopia also drew attention: 1.5-2 degrees.

In the 9 – 13-year group, there was no significant evolution.

Another interesting result is that girls developed myopia earlier than boys.

With this, researchers concluded that the social isolation caused by the new coronavirus pandemic can influence myopia in children. Especially among those aged six to eight years because they are at a stage more sensitive to the problem.


Does increased myopia also occur here as overseas?


In Brazil, there are no concrete data on the increase in myopia in children and teenagers during the pandemic. But in a recent survey conducted by the Brazilian Council of Ophthalmology (CBO), 72% of ophthalmologists reported an increase in diagnoses in patients from zero to 19 years old.

295 ophthalmologists, specialized in various areas, such as retina, cornea, glaucoma and pediatrics, were heard between April and June this year. 76% of doctors believe excessive exposure to electronic devices may directly relate to the explosion of cases. 22% believe only smartphones and tablets are to blame. On the other hand, a small percentage of experts believe there is no link between the two events.


Less screen, more outdoor action


The increase of myopia in young people during the pandemic is influenced by genetic and environmental factors. The disease can be hereditary, passing from parents to sons. In relation to external conditions, the problem lies in the longer period focused on objects very close to the eyes, not resting nr being exposed to sunlight.

Looking at things too closely, less than 33 centimeters from the eyes, without intervals, causes the release of chemical agents inside the eye, which can grow the eyeball larger and increase myopia.

Another aggravating factor is the progression to severe myopia, which seriously affects vision. Currently, this untreated disease is the leading cause of mild and moderate visual impairment and the second largest cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Besides this, it can cause more serious problems in the future, such as glaucoma, cataracts and retinal detachment.

The Brazilian Society of Pediatrics (SBP) has recommendations on the use of screens by children and teenagers. One of the main is not exposing children up to two years to screens, even if passively. From two to five years, only one hour a day. From six to ten years, two hours a day. Other guidelines are to avoid screens during meals and two hours before bedtime. And, when using, take periodic breaks every 30 minutes or 1 hour in a row.

At the same time, it is critical to increase outdoor activities so that cases decrease. Sunlight releases neurotransmitters that reduce eye enlargement.


Myopia: the epidemic of the century


It has been a few years since the WHO warns of a worldwide myopia epidemic. The entity estimates that the disease currently affects 35% of the population and may reach more than half (52%) by 2050. Only in Brazil, the organization believes that there are 59 million short-sighted people.


Regular visits to the ophthalmologist


How to slow the increase in myopia among children and teenagers taking other actions than reducing close focus without intervals and having more outdoor activities? It is advisable for parents or legal guardians not to only take youngsters to the ophthalmologist after a visual issue. It is essential to keep a routine of visits to the specialist, mainly because at this age it is possible to prevent and early diagnose eye disorders.


Reviewed by Paulo Schor, ophthalmologist, free professor and director of innovation of the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp) and collaborator of the Faculty of Medicine of the Albert Einstein Hospital.


Follow Phelcom’s blog and stay on top of the main news about coronavirus and the eyes.

Study identifies ocular syphilis with Optical Coherence Tomography

Study identifies ocular syphilis with Optical Coherence Tomography

Ocular syphilis is a manifestation of syphilis that can arise when the disease is not treated properly. This stage occurs years after infection and has a challenging diagnosis. Despite directing lesions, we call the treponema palidum (etiological agent of the disease) “the great copycat”. The agent can simulate several different manifestations. At this stage, the problem can even cause blindness.

But, a new study pointed out that Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), A common ophthalmological examination in SUS, can help in the early identification of ocular syphilis. The University of São Paulo (USP) carried out the research and published it recently in the journal Ocular Immunology and Inflammation.

Learn about the research, results and what should be the next steps for the use of OCT to diagnose the disease.


The research


Researchers from the Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto (FMRP), from USP, evaluated one of the eyes of 54 patients with ocular syphilis admitted to the FMRP clinical hospital (HCFMRP). After part of them received the treatment, scientists still analyzed 31 eyes.

Through Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), researchers found retinal lesions that may aid in early diagnosis of the disease.




The ophthalmological exam identified round spots, irregularities, elevations and detachment in the retinas studied. According to the authors of the work, it is the first time that OCT checks for frequent changes in the retina in a large series of cases of ocular syphilis. These modifications are imperceptible on clinical exams.

Undoubtedly, the findings of OCT have diagnostic value in ocular syphilis, but do not predict the prognosis. However, the examination – common both in the Brazilian Unified Health System (SUS) and private clinics – can help visualize signs of the disease even in early stages. After confirming the diagnosis with serology and referring to the indicated treatment, the patient has a good chance of not having permanent sequelae in vision.


Photo: Eduardo Paulino Eye Institute.


Reviewed by Paulo Schor, ophthalmologist, free professor and director of innovation of the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp) and collaborator of the Faculty of Medicine of the Albert Einstein Hospital.


Follow Phelcom’s blog and stay on top of the main news about coronavirus and the eyes.

How retinography helps diagnosing and monitoring choroidal nevus

How retinography helps diagnosing and monitoring choroidal nevus

The choroidal nevus is a dark spot that occurs at the eye fundus and is only detectable through routine examinations such as retinal mapping. Usually, treatment only includes an yearly follow-up.

There are also skin nevi, which dermatologists follow-up with dermatoscopy to check for possible changes in their characteristics, such as enlargement. The same follow-up occurs with the spots at the eye fundus, for example.

If they grow, they can evolve into very advanced stages, such as choroidal melanoma, a very rare disease that affects less than 1% of patients diagnosed with the condition. This number is equivalent to five people in a million.

Melanoma (a type of cancer) is asymptomatic at the initial stage. An estimated 85% of cases arise in the uveal tract – iris, ciliary body and choroid. When not identified early, it can metastasize to the liver.

Retinography applies for checking the coroidal nevus size. Learn how this examination can help early diagnosis and disease follow-up.


Choroidal nevus – diagnosis


The ophthalmologist can only identify a coroidal nevus in a routine examination, because the disorder is not visible to the naked eye and does not usually present early symptoms.

Retinal mapping is one of them. By observing a nevus, the doctor can carry out further examinations to finish the diagnosis, such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) and retinography.

Eye fundus imaging is essential to detect, monitor and check if the spot grows. Currently, there are portable non-mydriatic devices that carry out the examination quickly and store the images on a functional online platform. Thus, it is possible to compare photos over the years. It also allows specialists anywhere in the world to diagnose remotely.

If the nevus grows, the first diagnosis may be undetermined melanocytic lesion, to which the doctor will define a protocol of examinations and follow-up. Observed new nevus increases confirm the choroidal melanoma diagnosis.


Choroidal melanoma – treatment


In fact, choroidal melanoma has no cure, but is treatable and requires lifetime monitoring. Thus, the therapy will be established according to the patient’s vision condition and age, as well as the status, location and extent of the cancer. As with all diseases, an early diagnosis determines a better prognosis.

Brachytherapy is most recommended for small and medium sizes. This surgery has a control rate of approximately 95% and maintains the eye and, in some situations, the ability to see.

An older method was removing the ocular globe. Enucleation may still occur for large tumors with symptoms as intense pain, poor vision and disorganization of internal structures. In some cases, radiotherapy, laser therapy and transpupillary thermotherapy are also indicated.


Reviewed by Paulo Schor, ophthalmologist, associate professor and director of innovation of the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp) and collaborator of the Faculty of Medicine of the Albert Einstein Hospital.


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Optogenetic therapy partly recovers the vision of patient blind by retinitis pigmentosa

Optogenetic therapy partly recovers the vision of patient blind by retinitis pigmentosa

A patient with retinitis pigmentosa was able to recover part of the vision after undergoing optogenetic therapy and light stimulation. For the first time, this technique has achieved partial recovery of visual function, according to clinical trial researchers. The study was published in Nature Medicine journal .

Before treatment, the man could only perceive the presence of light. Now, he already finds, counts, and touches objects. Learn about the clinical trial and how optogenetic therapy works.


The research


Researchers from the Sorbonne University, Quinze-Vingts Hospital and the company GenSight Biologics, from France, in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh, from the United States, and the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology of Basel, from Switzerland, conducted clinical trials with optogenetic therapy in patients with retinitis pigmentosa.

That degenerative genetic disease damages the retinal photoreceptor cells, causing progressive loss of vision. The condition evolves until the patient is completely blind. The problem affects one in 3.5 thousand people, according to Orphanet database. Currently, an estimated two million cases exist worldwide.

A 58-year-old man, blind for 20 years, received an injection into one of his eyes with a gene called ChrimsonR, that encodes opsin proteins and identifies amber light. These proteins are responsible for sending visual information to the brain.

He then underwent treatment with flashes of light directly on the retina. In optogenetic therapy, light pulses control gene expression and activation of neurons. Currently, they are widely used in laboratories to unravel neural circuits and can be a potential treatment for pain, blindness and brain problems.




After producing enough opsins, which occurred five months after beginning therapy, the patient was given camera glasses that project amber-colored images onto the retina.

In the first exercise, the man needed to notice, find and touch a large book and a small box of staples. In total, he managed to touch the book in 92% of evaluations, and the boxes in 36% of the time.

In the second test, the patient achieved 63% efficiency when counting glasses on a table. In the third exercise, he wore an electrode helmet that monitored if he recognized a glass on the table or not. In this one, he was successful 78% of the time.

Seven months after receiving the injection, the patient already showed signs of improvement in vision.

After two years of treatment, the man still uses the glasses to see better. In fact, images will never be the same as natural ones, but for those who have been blind for 20 years, it is life-changing.

It is the first time that optogenetic therapy has managed to partly reverse vision loss by a genetic degenerative eye disease. The trial will now advance to phase 3 to confirm the effectiveness of this therapeutic approach. However, it will still take some time to offer the technique, as it needs more studies, more patients and more longevity.


Reviewed by Paulo Schor, ophthalmologist, free professor and director of innovation of the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp) and collaborator of the Faculty of Medicine of the Albert Einstein Hospital.


Follow Phelcom’s blog and stay on top of the main news about coronavirus and the eyes.

Unprecedented artificial corneal transplant restores sight to elderly man

Unprecedented artificial corneal transplant restores sight to elderly man

Currently, it is estimated that 1.5 million people worldwide lose their vision each year due to corneal injuries and diseases. Thus, problems in this membrane are the third largest global cause of visual impairment, behind only cataracts and glaucoma.

Even though corneal transplantation is the most performed in the world, there is a great shortage of cornea donation. To get an idea, only one person out of 70 is able to undergo the surgery.

But this scenario may change. Recently, Israeli doctors performed the world’s first successful artificial corneal transplant. The patient, a 78-year-old man, was able to regain his sight after 10 years of blindness.

In fact, synthetic corneal implants already exist, but because they required more complex surgeries, they were used only as a last resort, such as rejection in corneal transplants. The new technology, on the other hand, can be implanted in a relatively simple way, with minimal cutting and suturing.

In the following, understand how the artificial cornea transplant occurred, how it acts inside the organism, the next steps, and how the result can change the reality of millions of people waiting for a cornea transplant to see again.

The artificial cornea transplant

Israeli startup CorNeat Vision has developed the KPro artificial implant to replace a patient’s deformed cornea. The procedure was performed at the Rabin Medical Center hospital in Israel.

The device has a non-degradable synthetic nano-tissue, which is placed under a membrane that lines the surface of the eyelid and the sclera (white part of the eyeball). When implanted, it unifies with the living tissue and encourages cell proliferation within the eye.

The synthetic cornea is only indicated in cases where the tissue is deformed, opaque, or scarred.

In an interview with the Israel Hayom website, the doctor and creator of the technology, Gilad Litvin, said that the surgery was relatively simple and lasted less than an hour.

Elderly Man Recognizes Relatives After Surgery

Patient Jamal Furani was able to regain his sight already the day after the artificial cornea transplant. The elderly man says that light was the first thing he could see. Afterwards, he was able to recognize relatives and even read texts.

“The result exceeded all our expectations,” says physician Irit Bahar, head of the Department of Ophthalmology at Rabin Medical Center.

Next Steps

The expectation is that the procedure will become viable and end the waiting line for donors around the world. “This technology was key to turning the tide against global blindness. It is very exciting to be at the forefront of this project that will undoubtedly impact millions of lives,” Bahar believes.

“We hope this will enable millions of blind patients around the world, in areas where there is no corneal practice or organ donation culture, to regain their sight,” says Gilad Litvin, medical director of CorNeat Vision. However, the company has not yet announced a market launch date.

Now the clinical trials continue. A further 10 approved Israeli patients are awaiting artificial corneal transplantation at Rabin Medical Center hospital. In addition, countries like Canada, France, the United States, and the Netherlands also have patients eligible for clinical trials.

Coronavirus and the eyes: new study points to nodules in severe cases.

Coronavirus and the eyes: new study points to nodules in severe cases.

Eyes are an open door.  Contaminated tears as a possible source of contagion.  Conjuntctivitis.  Retina alterations.  Glaucoma.

From symptoms as conjunctivitis to possible sequelae as retinopathy and glaucoma, diverse studies and reports point to the relation of the new coronavirus and the eyes.

As it is a new disease, we sill do not know for sure how it  reaches this organ.  Therefore, nowadays, researches serve mainly as an alert.

Now, a new study identified small nodules in the eyes of patients with severe covid-19. The work of the French Radiology Society (SFR) was published in the scientific journal Radiology.

Know more about the research, results and how data is important to better understand and encourage investigation of the possible sequelae of the new coronavirus to the eyes.




From March to May 2020, researchers submitted 129 severe covid-19 patients, 43 women and 86 men, to brain MRI exams.  They aimed to detect possible anomalies in the eyes.




Nine patients presented one or more small nodules in the posterior macular area:

  • From them, eight had anomalies in both eyes;
  • Eight were hospitalized in the ICU;
  • Seven remained prone for an extended time;
  • Six were obese;
  • Two had diabetes;
  • Two suffered from hypertension.

The team could not identify the reason for the nodules to appear.  However, they raised some hypotheses:

  • Virus-caused inflamation;
  • Poor blood circulation in the ocular veins in patients intubated in the ICU, such as damage and blockage;
  • Small eye hemorrhages;
  • Disruption of nerve fibers.

According to scientists, it is the first time there is documentation of this kind of sequelae through MRI.


Next steps


The volunteers remain under monitoring to observe possible changes of the ocular nodules or vision impairment. In addition, new severe patients from the second and third waves are under evaluation.

In fact, the study needs to deepen, in order to prove the formation of nodules in the eyes due to the new coronavirus. However, the study highlights it is important to capture images of the eyes in severe covid-19 cases and follow the patient post-treatment evolution.

Brain MRI, fundoscopy and optical coherence tomography figure as useful exams.

“Our study advocates triage for all patients hospitalized in ICU with severe covid-19. We believe they must receive specific eye protection treatments”, said in  a note the main author of the study, Augustin Lecles, associated professor at the University of Paris, and neuroradiologist* of the Department of Neuroradiology of the Adolphe de Rothschild Foundation Hospital in Paris.




In fact, there is still a long way to prove the correlation between coronavirus and the eyes.  However, studies are essential to encourage more attention to the eyes of infected patients, by means of exams and monitoring after the cure.

More than that, this research highlights that patients with pre-existing diseases, such as diabetes and hipertension, have a higher risk factor. Therefore, they also must undergo eye investigations.


Learn first-hand information on the main researches about the coronavirus and the eyes. Follow Phelcom’s blog.


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