Posted February 23, 2015
Many people remember their parents telling them to go play outside while growing up. But as personal safety became a concern, and digital devices were introduced, kids gravitated to spending more time inside glued to their computers and other electronics. Now eye professionals are seeing a vision trend that’s causing them to request that kids spend more time outdoors.
Increase in nearsightedness
The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that nearsightedness, or myopia, is more common today than it was 40 years ago. Researchers have been studying the problem, exploring whether the extended time with electronic devices is causing the increased reports of nearsightedness or not.
Outdoor light improves vision
According to an article published in The Washington Post, children, including those with a family history of nearsightedness, can improve their vision by spending at least 14 hours a week in outdoor light.
Researchers at Ohio State University can’t explain why outdoor light makes a difference, but studies support this idea. They recognize that invisible ultraviolet B rays produced by the sun assist in the development of vitamin D, which may help eyes focus light on the retina. However, scientists believe there are other reasons why outdoor light is important.
Impact of outdoor light
Children’s eyes continue to develop between ages 5 and 9. If the distance between the lens and the retina lengthens during these years, children are more likely to develop nearsightedness. Scientists believe exposure to outdoor light helps the eye maintain correct shape and length during these developmental years.
Sunshine or overcast light
Researchers also are studying whether outdoor light on a cloudy day is just as valuable as sunshine. They have determined that on cloudy days, outdoor light still is at least 10 times brighter than indoor light. However, scientists believe the retina’s use of this light is enhanced if people have spent time outdoors on previous sunny days.
While these research studies are not conclusive, scientists are excited about the results and are looking into additional testing. Ultimately, their goal is to help kids improve their vision, so hopefully they can avoid wearing prescription glasses to correct nearsightedness.