Myopia, also known as nearsightedness, is booming. Its prevalence in the US has doubled in the last 3 decades with 42% of the US population now nearsighted and fully half of the population expected to be nearsighted by 2050.
What can we do?
A simple and effective solution–get children outdoors. The evidence continues to grow showing increased outdoor sports activities reduce and delay the onset of myopia. This may have a dramatic effect on a child’s vision over the course of their lifetime.
By reducing the degree of nearsightedness, a person’s glasses prescription, retinal detachment and other sight threatening conditions are all drastically reduced.
The jury is still out on the cause for this finding but possible candidates are children indoors are exposed to more near activities that don’t extend their focus beyond the walls of their indoor environment and absence of natural light. There is no specific recommendation on the amount of outdoor activity time although one study showed that outdoor recess time at school was enough to make a difference.
One Caveat: if a child is already nearsighted, increased outdoor activity has not been associated with reducing progression. We need to get children outdoors early before the onset of nearsightedness. For children that are nearsighted now there are a number of treatments that have proven effective at reducing progression and all should be considered in a child with nearsightedness. Come see us– we can help.
Below are studies for further reference.
Wu et al.: Outdoor Activity during Class Recess Reduces Myopia Onset and Progression in School Children (Ophthalmology 2013;120:1080-1085)
Jonnes LA Sinnott LT Mutti DO Parental history of myopia, sports and outdoor activities, and future myopia. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sic. 2007; 48:3524-3532.
Guggenheim JA Northstone K Mc Mahon G Time outdoors and physcial activity as predictors of incident myopia in childhood: aprospective chort study. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2012;532856-2865.
Deng L Gwiazda J Thorn F. Children’s refractions and visual activites in the school year and summer. Optom Vis Sci 2010:87:406-413.
Dirani M Tong L Gazzard G Outdoor activity and myopia in Singapore teenage children. Br J Ophthalmol. 2009;93:997-1000.
Ip JM Saw SM Rose KA ROle of near work in myopia findings in a sample of Australian school children. Invest Opthalmol Vis Sci. 2008:49;2903-2910.
Mutti DO Mitchell GL Moeschberger ML Parental myopia, near work, school achievement, and children’s refractive error. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2002;43:3633-3640.