myopiaMyopia, commonly known as nearsightedness, occurs when (without the correction of eyeglasses or contact lenses) objects that are far away appear more blurry than objects that are close up. With higher levels of nearsightedness, it can even be difficult to see objects that are very close as well. Similar to an out-of-focus projector that is too far away from the screen, myopia causes blurry vision because the light entering the eye is inappropriately focused prematurely in front of the retina.

Nearsightedness affects millions of people across all ages and nationalities. In particular, Asians have a very high incidence of nearsightedness. Some Asian countries have reported 70–90 percent of the adult population as nearsighted. Approximately 70 million American adults, or roughly 1 in 4, is nearsighted. It is by far the most common refractive error we see in Optometry.

Encouraging children to spend more time outdoors may be a simple and cost-effective way to improve their vision and overall health, according to several recent studies, adding to the growing evidence that spending time outdoors may lower the risk of nearsightedness (myopia) in children and adolescents.

A recent study found that, for each additional hour children spent outside each week, their risk of being nearsighted dropped by about two percent. Nearsighted children in this study averaged 3+ fewer hours a week outside than those with normal vision or those who were farsighted.

Another study showed that schoolchildren who were required to spend 80 minutes of outdoor recess time every day had a less incidence of becoming nearsighted when compared to children who were not. In a study with Danish children, researchers found that the rate of eye growth varies in relation to its exposure to daylight. This is important, because if the eye grows too long (as measured from front to back), the child will have myopia. The children’s eyes grew normally during the long days of summer in Denmark but grew too quickly in the short days of winter. The researchers aren’t exactly sure why outdoor time is beneficial but they do feel it’s  related to exposure to daylight rather than to playing sports or other outdoor activities.

As in most things in life, the best solution is usually to take things in moderation. The proper balance of near and distance vision tasks, for example, including getting your kids outdoors and experiencing the great big world around them, is a good rule of thumb. If you are concerned with your child’s vision or feel he/she may have myopia (nearsightedness), please contact us at (434) 977-2020. You can also Request An Appointment online for your school-aged child to be seen by one of our eye doctors at Primary Eyecare.

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