By Steve Roberts
Glasses for children could become a thing of the past if parents followed the advice from a new research study recently reported to the American Academy of Opthalmology (AAO). Anthony Khawaja of the University of Cambridge in England highlighted how his research investigation had established that for each additional hour spent outdoors per week, the chance of a child developing shortsightedness - otherwise known as myopia - dropped by around two percent. The researchers looked at data from eight studies on outdoor time and shortsightedness in over 10,000 children and adolescents and found that those who spent less than 3.7 hours outdoors per week had this refractive error of the eye.
A quarter of American children and adolescents currently suffer from refractive errors such as shortsightedness, longsightedness and astigmatism according to Centers for Disease Control data and this level of poor eye health is growing steadily. More importantly, this phenomenon is not confined to America - myopia rates have increased significantly around the world and the disease is now regarded by the World Health Organisation as being a major issue. Yet this new study appears to suggest that a simple remedy is at hand to avoid glasses for children becoming necessary. According to Khawaja: "Increasing children's outdoor time could be a simple and cost-effective measure with important benefits for their vision and general health."
What is less clear is why time spent outdoors is so beneficial and the study is unable to identify a specific cause. However, there has been considerable speculation around the eye health benefits of UV light as well as the more prosaic idea that children simply spend more time outdoors focusing their eyes on distant objects as against the predominantly near vision focus of TV, computers, smartphones and their general surroundings when indoors. Once a child develops myopia - which usually becomes evident from around the ages of 8-10 years - the key challenge is to stop it getting worse. This is where overnight ortho-k contact lenses worn only while sleeping may provide a better solution than glasses for children since research has shown that the former actually stop myopia progressing.
Check if your child is suitable for ortho-k corrective contact lenses for children.