Can Outdoor Time Prevent Myopia? 

Dr. Russel Lazarus, July 25, 2021

Over 2.6 billion people worldwide have myopia. Can spending time outdoors reduce myopia progression?

With the prevalence of myopia (nearsightedness) on the rise, it’s critical for parents to understand how myopia can affect their child’s future and what steps they can take to safeguard their child’s eye health in the long run, with Myopia Management.

Childhood myopia, or nearsightedness, raises the risk of major eye sight-threatening diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, and retinal detachment later in life.

What causes myopia?

Myopia results when the eye is longer than it should be, so the light entering the eye focuses in front of the retina rather than directly on it, creating blurry vision.

Myopia is caused by a mix of hereditary and environmental factors.

According to several research studies, the amount of time a child spends outside in the daylight plays a significant role in the development of myopia.

How does outdoor play affect myopia? 

Although researchers have yet to identify precisely why ‘outdoor time’ prevents or delays myopia, several studies have shown that outdoor time can prevent or lower the chance of developing myopia.

1. Sunlight

One likely reason is the exposure to rays of sunlight.

According to research published in Progress in Retinal and Eye Research (2017), the sun’s rays cause a release of dopamine which impacts the retina and may slow the elongation of the eye.

2. Relaxed eyes

Another theory is that spending time outside allows a child’s sight to move from nearby items to distant ones.

This constant changing of focus allows the eyes to relax.

Excessive near focus, such as staring at a digital screen, is thought to be a major contributor to the current rise in myopia.

Sending a child outside to play allows them to take a break from their smartphones, tablets, gaming, homework and other near focus activities.

3. Vitamin D

Furthermore, more time spent in the sun allows for greater Vitamin-D production. According to research published by Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (2014), nearsighted people have lower levels of Vitamin-D than those with normal eyesight. However, more research is still needed to provide more information.

SEE RELATED: What is Myopia Management?

If you suspect your child has myopia, contact an eye doctor near you.

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What can you do as a parent?

Children with myopia are more likely to acquire sight-threatening eye problems later in life.

Parents should take an active role in their child’s eye health and do everything they can to avoid or limit the progression of myopia.

Allowing your child to play outside for a couple of hours a day, even if they don’t have myopia, has been shown to delay the onset of myopia, according to several research studies.

Genetics also plays a role: nearsightedness is more likely to develop in a child if one or both parents are nearsighted.

So, grab a water bottle, some sunscreen, and a pair of sunglasses for your child and send them outside to play!

Children ages 6 and up should spend approximately 2 hours every day outside in the sunshine.

However, simply spending time in the sun is insufficient to secure the best potential outcome for their eye health. A myopia management program can help your child have the best chance of having healthy vision for the rest of their life.

What is myopia management? 

Myopia management is a science-based approach to decreasing or stopping the myopia from worsening.

A study published by Diseases (2018), myopia management has been shown to decrease myopia progression by up to 78 percent.

There are various treatment options, and your optometrist will sit down with you and your child to discuss which one is best.

Myopia management has been approved for children as young as 8 years old to adults. Myopia treatment is beneficial for children with low myopia, but it can also help to delay the progression of myopia in children and teenagers with moderate to severe myopia.

Myopia management can involve the use of eyeglasses, contact lenses, and eye drops— all scientifically proven to help control myopia progression.

LEARN MORE: Guide to Myopia Management

Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor near you, to find out whether your child is a candidate for myopia management.