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Myopia Management

Why Does Outdoor Time Delay Or Prevent Myopia?

outdoor children 640Now that myopia (nearsightedness) is reaching epidemic proportions across the globe, it’s all the more important for parents to understand how myopia can impact their child’s future, and learn which actions they should take to protect their child’s eye health in the long run.

You see, myopia isn’t simply an inconvenience. Childhood myopia raises the risk of developing vision-robbing diseases like macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachment and diabetic retinopathy later in life.

Myopia develops as the eye elongates more than it should, causing light to focus in front of the retina instead of directly on it. This manifests as blurred distance vision and clear near vision.

While myopia is caused by a combination of circumstances, including genetic and environmental, a key factor comes down to the amount of time a child spends outdoors in the sunlight.

How Does Outdoor Play Affect Myopia?

Although researchers haven’t yet pinpointed exactly why “sun time” prevents or delays myopia, almost all agree that it plays a large role.

One possible reason is correlated to the brightness of the sun. Some experts have found that the intensity of the sun’s rays triggers a dopamine release in the retina which is thought to slow down the elongation of the eye.

Another theory holds that outdoor time encourages a child to shift their gaze from near objects to faraway ones. Excessive near work, like staring at a digital screen, is believed to be a driving force behind the stark increase in myopic individuals today.

Sending a child outdoors to play gives their eyes a break from focusing on their tablets, smartphones, homework, gaming and other near work.

Additionally, spending more time in the sunshine means more Vitamin-D production. Small-scale studies have found nearsighted people have lower levels of Vitamin D than those with normal eyesight. However, more research is needed to confirm this theory.

Here’s the Bottom Line

Childhood myopia increases the risk of developing sight-threatening eye diseases later in life. Parents should be proactive about their child’s eye health and do what they can to prevent myopia from developing or progressing at a rapid rate.

Even if your child doesn’t have myopia, encouraging them to play outdoors for several hours a day has been found to prevent the onset of myopia in certain instances.

So go ahead and give your child a water bottle, sunscreen, a pair of sunglasses—and send them out to play! Children aged 6 and up should spend about 2 hours daily outside in the sunshine.

But sun time alone isn’t enough to ensure the best possible outcome for their eye health. A myopia management program can help give your child the best odds of healthy vision for a lifetime.

To learn more about the myopia treatments we offer and schedule your child’s myopia consultation, call Family Eyecare Center today!


Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. John Riggs

Q: #1: What is myopia management?

  • A: Myopia management is the science-based method used to slow or halt the progression of myopia. There are several options available, and your optometrist will sit down with you and your child to discuss which treatment option is most suitable for your child’s needs.

Q: #2: Who can benefit from myopia management?

  • A: Myopia management treatments have been approved for children as young as 8 and can be used until early adulthood. Myopia management is great for children with low myopia but can also be effective for slowing myopia progression in kids and teens with moderate to high myopia. Contact us to find out whether your child is a candidate for myopia management.

Family Eyecare Center serves patients from Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista North Coastal and San Diego County, all throughout California.

 

Myopia Management Appointment
Want To Discuss Myopia? Call 760-942-3937

Is the Myopia Epidemic Caused by Screen Time?

screen time and myopia 640More than 40% of North Americans have myopia (nearsightedness), most of them since childhood.

Myopia (nearsightedness) occurs when the eyeball grows too long, and the shape of the eye causes light rays to focus in front of the retina instead of directly on the retina. This causes distant objects to appear blurry.

Children with moderate to severe myopia are at significant risk of developing sight-threatening eye diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts, retinal detachment and glaucoma later in life.

Is the myopia epidemic even partly due to children spending too much time looking at digital screens? While digital devices keep our children entertained and help them learn via online classrooms, it’s important to understand the ramifications associated with using them.

Is There a Link Between Digital Screens and Myopia?

That’s an excellent question, with no easy answers.

Several studies have found that children who spend many hours indoors doing “close work” — reading, writing, and looking at computers and other digital devices — have a higher rate of myopia progression.

In Denmark, teenagers who spent more than six hours a day on screens doubled their risk of myopia, while in Ireland, researchers determined that spending more than three hours a day on a screen increased the chances a child would be myopic.

However, some other studies haven’t found a definitive correlation between screen time and myopia.

What is clear is that children who spend a considerable amount of time playing outdoors in the sunshine appear to develop myopia at a slower rate than children who spend almost all their time indoors.

A study published in the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s professional journal, Ophthalmology, found that the progression of myopia in first-graders who spent at least 11 hours per week playing outside in the sunshine was slower in the “sunshine” children.

And a study by the Singapore Eye Research Institute found that each hour teenagers spent outdoors doing activities lowered their risk of myopia by 10 percent.

Whether this was due to them looking at far-away objects or to sunlight’s effect on the children’s eyes requires further study.

What is certain: Children, teens and adults who look at screens for an extended period of time often experience blurred vision, headaches, dry eyes and digital eye strain.

Signs of Myopia

Looking at objects too closely

If you notice your child moving closer to the TV, or having trouble seeing the board in their classroom, it can be a sign that they have myopia.

Head tilting or squinting

If your child tilts or squints their head while watching TV, it may be a sign that they are having trouble focusing.

Blurred vision

If your child can’t see clearly in the distance or complains of blurry vision, it may be due to using a digital screen for long periods of time.

Headaches

Untreated myopia can cause serious eye strain, which can cause headaches.

How to Help Prevent Myopia or Slow Its Progression

Many cases of myopia are inherited, but it’s still possible to slow and sometimes halt its progression. Here is what you can do to help prevent your child from developing this eye condition:

  • Encourage your child to go outdoors at least 90 minutes a day, preferably in the sunshine. Be sure to follow local health recommendations regarding children and exposure to sunlight, including wearing UV-protected sunglasses and sunscreen.
  • Limit the amount of time your child spends doing close work such as homework, reading and staring at a screen.
  • When your child uses a digital screen, make sure the screen isn’t close to their face. Encourage your child to take a break at least once every 20 minutes, and to look across the room for at least 20 seconds during each break.
  • Discuss myopia management with your eye doctor to help slow and potentially stop the progression of your child’s myopia.

How We Can Help Treat Myopia

If your child shows signs or symptoms of myopia, schedule an eye exam with your eye doctor as soon as possible to discuss a myopia management plan. Early diagnosis of myopia or other eye conditions can improve your child’s performance in school, on the sports field, and can help prevent serious sight-robbing eye diseases later in life.

Contact Family Eyecare Center to schedule an appointment to discuss your child’s myopia management plan.

Q&A

Q: What is Myopia Management?

  • A: Myopia management is a treatment program prescribed by your eye doctor to slow, and sometimes halt, myopia progression.

Q: What is involved in myopia management?

A: Depending on the severity of myopia and age of your child, your eye doctor may prescribe any of the following myopia management techniques:

  • Eyeglasses, such as bifocal or multifocal
  • Multifocal contact lenses
  • Atropine eye drops
  • Orthokeratology (Ortho-k) contact lenses


Myopia Management Appointment
Want To Discuss Myopia? Call 760-942-3937