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Why Does Outdoor Time Delay Or Prevent Myopia?

outdoor children 640Myopia (nearsightedness) has reached epidemic proportions across the globe.  As COVID comes to a close, we now understand what epidemic proportions really means.

It is more important that ever for parents to understand how myopia can impact their child’s future, and learn what actions to take in order 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 problems later on in life that can cause vision loss;  macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachment and diabetic retinopathy.

Myopia develops as the eye elongates more than it should, causing light to focus in front of the retina instead of directly on it. As this happens, children begin to see more blurry at distance.  Most doctors have simply prescribed a higher and higher prescription each year.  Obviously eyeglasses don't solve the problem.  They merely compensate for it.  Here is an example:  if someone gains weight, they can compensate and get clothes that are larger.  This doesn't solve the problem.  It compensates for it.  A different way to address it is by diet and exercise to bring the weight down.  Similarly, there are programs that we offer in our office that address the root cause of the problem.

As with most medical issues, Myopia is caused by a combination of factors:  genetic and environmental.  Some doctors have advocated more outdoor time in the sunlight.

How Does Outdoor Play Affect Myopia?

One thought is that additional time in the sun triggers a neurotransmitter (Dopamine) release in the retina.  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.  Spending time in the sun means less time spent looking at a digital device.  A third reason might be that we create Vitamin D when we are in the sun.  Some studies have found that people who are nearsighted, have lower levels of Vitamin D.  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 and being physically active, just makes sense.  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.

We offer several myopia management treaments:  Orthokeratology, Vision Therapy, Syntonic Phototherapy, Special Soft lenses for myopia control, and Atropine.  To learn more about these myopia management treatment option, schedule your child’s myopia consultation, call Family Eye Care today!

Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Moshe Roth

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.

Q: #3: What age should I bring my child in for an eye examination?

A: A child's first eye examination should be at age 1 and then at age 3.  It is much more common for a child to have a binocular problem, such as strabismus (an eye turn) or amblyopia (lazy eye) that might not be identified by even the best pediatricians.  That is why seeing a Developmental Optometrist is the best type of eye doctor to see.  It is rare for a child to have an eye disease, and that is why seeing a Pediatric Ophthalmologist, a doctor that specializes in eye disease and surgery, might give someone a false sense of security.  Those types of eye doctors usually look at each eye individually rather than how the two eyes work together as a team.

Q: #4: How often should a child have an eye examination?

The visual system is the most important way to bring in information from the world around us.  That is why a child should have an examination at age 5 and EVERY year they are in school.

Family Eye Care serves patients from Old Bridge, East Brunswick, Woodbridge and Edison, all throughout New Jersey.

 


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