Unfortunately, approximately 34 million Americans are afflicted with myopia, or nearsightedness. Even worse, if you are one of the many afflicted with nearsightedness, there’s not much you can do about it unless you’re willing to spend tons of money on corrective surgery fees or cover up the problem with glasses or contacts.
However, some interesting research has surfaced that might offer hope for future generations: simply getting outside might prevent nearsightedness and protect eye health in children.
Lisa Jones-Jordan, PhD, a research associate professor at The Ohio State University College of Optometry, authored a study back in 2012 that looked at the relationships between outdoor activity time and nearsightedness.
“Children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop nearsightedness, and nearsighted kids do seem to be outside less,” Jones-Jordan says of her research findings.
With the rate of nearsightedness reaching massive proportions throughout Asia (more than 80 percent of the population in Singapore is myopic, for example), the study comes at an opportune time for parents to help get their kids on the right track to clearer, healthier vision for the long-term. Researchers also discovered that children in hot, humid areas of Asia who spend more time indoors are increasingly more likely to be affected by myopia.
Furthermore, it’s also beginning to be believed that the large cultural emphasis on education in Asian countries has played a role in keeping the kids inside. Whatever it is about being outside that appears to protect against myopic development is still not fully understood, though vitamin D from the sunlight could be one factor.
While genetics appear to be a factor in myopic risk, there aren’t any other scientifically-confirmed causes for the disorder. But that’s what makes this new research so intriguing, Jones-Jordan says.
Nearsightedness tends to develop in people during youth– though there are some cases when late-onset nearsightedness can occur, oftentimes in adulthood. In general, though, “usually by the time you’re no longer a teenager, you’ll be as nearsighted as you’re going to be,” Jones-Jordan says.
Because of that, being outside once you’ve already become a nearsighted adult is unlikely to improve your eyesight, which helps to explain why researchers’ focus now involves encouraging children to get outside as much as they can while they’re young– so they can prevent the issue beforehand.
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