Schools are being urged to allow pupils more time outdoors in a bid to combat the rising cases of myopia. Also known as near-sightedness, myopia is thought to be affecting more children than ever before due to spending more time in dimly lit classrooms.

Over the course of the pandemic, most children switched to remote home learning, while simultaneously spending less time outdoors. The lack of sunlight compared to previous generations, has seen a rise in all kinds of health issues, including myopia.

Here, we look at how sunshine could help to protect against myopia and other risk factors you should be aware of.

What is myopia?

Myopia is a common eye condition that affects your ability to see faraway objects clearly. The condition typically starts in children aged 6 to 13, though it can also develop in adults too. The main symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Difficulty reading from a distance
  • Sitting close to the television, or having your phone close to your face
  • Frequent headaches
  • Frequent eye rubbing

The condition typically runs in families, and it can worsen until the eyes stop growing. If it is not caught early and treated, there is a risk of it leading to vision-threatening complications including blindness. However, this is rare and only normally occurs in cases where high myopia has progressed to an advanced stage. It is usually treated with contact lenses or glasses and is diagnosed with an eye test.

How can sunlight help to fight myopia?

Sunlight helps to regulate eye growth in children. As myopia is typically caused by over-elongated development along the front-to-back axis, exposure to sunlight can help to prevent the problem. Interestingly, it can also neutralise the genetic risk associated with the condition.

It is estimated that children with a family history have a 60% chance of developing the condition themselves. However, spending just two hours a day in the sunshine can help to neutralise the risk. This is because sunlight stimulates the release of dopamine from specialised cells in the retina that aren’t associated with vision. They then trigger chemical signals that help to delay the elongation of the eyeball.

Inadequate exposure to sunlight during childhood is known to greatly increase the risk of developing myopia.

Other risk factors

It isn’t just a lack of sunlight that can cause myopia. Here are some other risk factors you should be aware of:

  • Genetics
  • Lifestyle habits
  • Demographics
  • Health factors

If your child spends a lot of time in front of a screen, or in poorly lit conditions, it can increase their risk of developing the condition. Studies have also shown that demographics such as where you live can also play a role. Those who live in rural areas are less likely to develop the condition than those in urban areas. In adults, health conditions such as Diabetes can lead to mild or moderate myopia.

Once you have myopia, it cannot be eradicated. However, it can be managed with glasses, contact lenses, or laser eye surgery.

If you are worried your child may have myopia, book a consultation with Mr Zaid Shalchi today.