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

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

Bangalore, September 20, 2022: A recent study by Sankara Eye Hospital has revealed vitamin D3 deficiency in children, possibly contributing to progressive Myopia. The study conducted over a period of last 6 months between January and July 2022, examined children in the age group of 8 to 14 years (31 boys and 20 girls) and found that serum vitamin D 3 levels were deficient (<20 ng/ml) in 38 children. Only 13 children were noted to have normal levels of above 30 ng/ml. The study threw light on possibly using vitamin D3 levels in protocols to treat children with progressive myopia. This study was conducted by Dr. Sowmya R, Consultant, Department of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, Sankara Eye Hospital. Meta-analysis from Hongkong group also had shown low vitamin D levels associated with increased risk of myopia.

Myopia is a common cause of visual impairment in children in the school going age group. The incidence of myopia has been estimated to be 5.3% in Indian children and 35.6% in adults. It is one of the most common causes of decrease in vision which starts manifesting in childhood and can progress over the years. Taking this into account, it becomes imperative to identify modifiable factors in the development and progression of myopia, so that progression can be minimized in childhood itself.

Commenting on the study, Dr. Sowmya R, Consultant, Department of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, Sankara Eye Hospital, Bengaluru said: “With the growing prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in India, and its effect on numerous body systems, we attempted to find a possible association between vitamin D deficiency and the recent spurt in progressive myopia in children. Vitamin D levels is thought to be a surrogate marker for sunlight exposure. Sunlight exposure and time spent outdoors are proven to be key factors in myopia progression. With pandemic playing havoc in all our lives in last 2 to 2.5 years, it has restrained all of us to homes, more so the kids and children. When the children are now coming for follow up, we have seen a low vitamin D levels in most of new onset myopes or fast progressing myopes. This can be attributed to nil to minimal sunlight exposure and outdoor activities in children. 

We looked at vitamin D levels in these children and noted low vitamin D levels in all children who showed progression with nearly 38/51 children showing low vitamin D levels. ( Jan to July 2022 data).

Previous study by us on the vitamin D levels in children with progressive myopia on treatment with low dose atropine showing progression (> 0.5D increase in last 6 months) had also showed similar results. Nearly 15/20 children on low dose atropine for progressive myopia had showed low vitamin D levels previously.  Considering vitamin D 3 levels are related to sunlight exposure, levels may act as surrogate marker for outdoor activities or act as independent factor in children with progressive myopia.

Our pilot study threw light on possibly using vitamin D 3 levels in our protocols in treating children with progressive myopia”- adds Dr. Sowmya R.

Therefore, it is highly recommended to monitor Vitamin D levels in children. Most importantly parents need to ascertain that children get a minimum of 90 minutes’ sunlight exposure every day as deficiency in Vitamin D can lead to visual impairment and other health complications.

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About Sankara Eye Foundation

Sankara Eye Foundation India is a Not for Profit organisation committed to provide quality eye care services to the poor and marginalised sections of the society. Started as a small primary health care centre in the year 1977 by Dr R.V. Ramani and Dr Radha Ramani, today Sankara is one among the largest and fastest growing social enterprise managing 12 super specialty eye care hospitals located across Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Our Network Hospitals are equipped with state of the art technology to perform advance eye surgeries. Sankara Eye Foundation India is a protagonist of National Eye Health Care Movement in India, continuously transforming the eye care delivery structure through various Eye Care Initiatives across age groups, cutting edge technology, scientific approach, innovation, research & training.

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