Improve eyesight   for children and adults through changing the increasingly common daily routine of spending too many hours staring at screens - computers, TVs and mobile phones - which trains the eye to focus primarily on objects close by. Combined with an equal propensity to spend much more time indoors under artificial light, it is hardly surprising to learn that the prevalence of short-sightedness - otherwise known as myopia - has increased dramatically around the world over the past 20-30 years. In the US, myopia now affects over 40% of the population whilst the incidence in Europe is almost 30%. 

Many research studies have been investigating this modern day development and an interesting new report from India has highlighted how children from higher income families are more susceptible to this problem of increasing short-sightedness. A recent study by Rajan Eye Care Hospital in Chennai among children of city schools shows that the average incidence of refractive error has gone up to 11 per cent this year compared to eight per cent in 2005. The doctors at the hospital say that children have been spending more time on digital luxuries rather than physical activities and the situation is only getting worse.

The study has so far covered about 10,000 students in state-funded and private schools. Most interestingly, the study indicates that the prevalence of refractive errors among state-funded school students is only about 5 per cent, whereas among private school pupils the prevalence of short-sightedness is more than 15 per cent. Dr Mohan Rajan, Director of the Rajan Eye Care Hospital explained that when the eyes are exposed to sunlight, a chemical called dopamine is prod¬uced that retards myopia which he believes is an important aid to improve eyesight  . The students of state-funded schools engage extensively in outdoor activities whilst most children in private schools stare into computer screens for long ho¬urs and use mobile phones extensively.

Dr Amar Agarwal, Managing Director of Agarwal Eye Hospital, said that most students in private schools are confined to air-conditioned classrooms for prolonged periods, travel in air-conditioned cars (without exposure to the sun) and consume a diet that is deficient in Vitamin A. By contrast, the mid-day meal served in government schools is comparatively rich in nutrients and is a positive dietary benefit for good vision. Common eye problems found in children from higher income families include refractive errors such as myopia but also higher astigmatism and even more severe conditions where risk of eyesight loss in later life is increased. However, changing the lifestyle of these children to improve eyesight   is recognised as being a huge challenge.

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