BBR Optometry welcomes research into the global increase of myopia (short-sightedness) that recommends children spend more time outdoors to help them avoid having vision issues in later life.
At first researchers at Sydney’s University of Technology thought the jump in non-genetic myopia, which according to the World Health Organisation already affects about 30% of the world’s population, must be due to children spending more time on computers, smart phones and iPads.
However, it has been discovered that is unlikely to be the devices themselves causing myopia development, but a related issue; lack of time spent outdoors. Studies have shown geographical variations in the development of myopia which correlates with behavioural differences in the children’s activities and time spent outdoors.
Professor Kathryn Rose, who worked on the Sydney Myopia Study at the University of Technology in Sydney, said: "An eye that's myopic is an eye that's growing too fast, too quickly and what we are actually thinking may be occurring is that when children spend time outdoors they are getting enough release of retinal dopamine to actually regulate the growth of their eye.
"There have now been two trials, one in Taiwan and one in China that have actually shown that they can reduce the incidence of myopia in those populations by increasing time outdoors for children.
"There seems to be a general agreement that, say, somewhere between 10-15 hours a week outdoors is enough to reduce the risk of myopia development,” she added.
Nick Black, Chief Executive at BBR Optometry and a specialist contact lens practitioner, says: “The latest figures suggest cases of myopia are expected to affect 50 per cent of the world’s population by 2050 which means everyone needs to be made more aware of the condition.
“Myopia develops when the eye becomes elongated. Light entering the eye focuses in front of the retina and objects further away become harder to see. The real concern is for those who develop what is called high myopia meaning they are at a much higher risk of future retinal disease and related visual impairment.
“Here at BBR we have seen an increase in myopic children and, if simply spending more time outside can help children, then we would certainly encourage parents to ensure this happens, obviously using the correct sun protection.
"However, some children will be myopic from a very young age and, in these cases, we can instead offer help in preventing progression through clinically-proven contact lenses called MiSight.
“Due to the strong evidence linking increasing myopia with ocular conditions which could result in future sight loss, it is recommended that the MiSight lens should be fitted as early as possible in the cycle of myopia progression.
“The MiSight lens is available in a range of prescriptions including those in the lower ranges and there is no limit or barrier to the age of children who are can be fitted with contact lenses.
“It has been shown that children are very responsive to maintaining good habits and hygiene when fitted from an early age. In fact, 100% of the children used in the MiSight study were able to independently remove their contact lenses without parental assistance, by end of the first month.
“Along with myopia control, 98-100% of the students in the same study also reported improvements in their daily activities from being spectacle free, such as playing outdoors,” he added.
Find out more about MiSight and myopia control at http://www.bbroptometry.co.uk/contact-lenses/myopia-control.aspx