Science debunks the short-sighted myths on Myopia

"Glasses" from Thomas Hawk on Flickr! CCBY

“Glasses” from Thomas Hawk on Flickr! CCBY

No one wants their child to face an increased risk of myopia (near-sightedness) which explain why over the years, I’ve been asked numerous times about the effects of computer use on students eyesight. It’s understandable since myopia is increasing to epidemic proportions in South East Asia, in particular Singapore where nearly 30% of children have it. Myopia is not just an inconvenience either. Children under 7 who get myopia are more likely to develop severe vision problems later in life.

Finally, it appears that the factors contributing to myopia are becoming more clear. Writing in Nature, Ellie Dolgin summarizes the recent research which should dispel some of the myths. Sure, South East Asian children tend spend a lot more time doing homework that European or North American kids, but it’s not the act of close reading, writing, or computer use in particular that are the likely culprit, being indoors is.

Go outside, for your eyes

When we go outside, our eyes are presented with a wider range of objects to look at and focus. This “exercise” for the eyes may help keep them from becoming elongated. But, the largest effect is most likely due to exposure to sunlight. Exposure to sunlight causes a dopamine to be released in the retina as part of a regular day/night cycle. Lack of exposure to sunlight is thought to disrupt this cycle and affect eye development resulting in myopia.

Getting kids outdoors might be easier said than done as a recent trial in Singapore found. Even after being provided with mentors,structured activities, and equipment, participating families didn’t significantly increase their time outdoors (despite reporting they did). Maybe clever posters like this are the answer?

Makes you want to go play doesn’t it?

Stop blaming technology

Funny how this poster calls out screen-based activities as those that need to be cut down. The lack of peer reviewed evidence on screen reading being any more harmful than reading a paper book or doing math problems suggests that this is a myth. Why is blogging and chatting any more likely to cause myopia? Help me out here Health Promotion Board. What am I missing?


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