Just 2 hours a Day Keeps the Myopia Away!
By Kylie McNeill – Clinical Optometrist
BAppSc(Optom) (Hons) GradCertOcTher FBCLA
Recently some leading-edge research was published by local Brisbane optometrist Associate Professor Scott Read – Director of research at QUT’s School of Optometry and Vision Science. It has been found that the more time children spend outdoors, they are less likely to develop or show progression of myopia (shortsightedness). In an effort to try and combat the global myopia epidemic it is now recommended that children be spending at least 2 hours in outdoor lighting each day, whilst still maintaining sun safety.
Each of the children enrolled in the QUT study wore a light-sensing wristwatch that measured their average length of daily sunlight exposure. Children who spent the least amount of time outdoors had faster eye growth and hence faster myopia progression. Children who spend less than an hour per day outdoors have been identified as the most at risk of myopia progression.
Myopia occurs when the light rays entering the front of the eye focus in front of (rather than on) the retina at the back of the eye. This is because the eyeball is too elongated for its focusing system. Patients with myopia experience blurred distance vision and usually require spectacles or contact lenses (such as Orthokeratology) to improve their eyesight. The onset of myopia generally occurs during the teenage years and is typically progressive over the following few years.
Within Australia it is estimated that 15% of the population are myopic and it has been long established that there is no simple or singular answer to its cause. Many decades of myopia research support that there are both genetic as well as environmental factors at play. A study published by Jones and colleagues (2007) showed that the risk of a child becoming shortsighted is just over double if they have one myopic parent compared to a child with no myopia in their parents, increasing significantly to 5.4 times more likely if both parents are myopic.
The increasing use of screen-based technology has been a longstanding suspect as an environmental risk factor however Associate Professor Scott Read’s research could suggest that it is in fact the lack of sunlight exposure rather than the increased screen time to blame.
The risk of allowing myopia to progress at alarming rates can be detrimental and goes well beyond the need to wear strong powered spectacles or contact lenses. With increasing degrees of shortsightedness comes an increased risk of degenerative retinal conditions and a higher incidence of retinal detachment – a sight-threatening condition.
At Mark Hinds Optometrists we are always looking to incorporate the latest developments in research into our advice and recommendations to ensure best-practice for our patients. In light of Associate Professor Scott Read’s work we advocate that children be spending at least an hour, but preferably greater than 2 hours of time on average outdoors each day. This is particularly important for those children already diagnosed with myopia or those with other known risk factors such as a family history of the condition.
Please click the below link if you would like to watch Associate Professor Read’s interview on 7 News Sydney.