Navigating The Myopia Crisis: Impact Of Modern Lifestyle On Rising Near-Sightedness

While it’s important to encourage children and young adults to engage in outdoor activities, equal emphasis should be placed on restricting screen time and other close-up tasks

Our way of sedentary lifestyle has brought up many changes in how we interact with the world around us. We are often more engrossed in navigating through our screens than we are in appreciating the expansive blue sky or the natural beauty that surrounds us. For many people around the world, mornings aren’t ‘good’ (despite the cheery messages flooding WhatsApp) but rather blurry. Their typical daily routine starts with relying on their dependable pair of glasses, and if, by chance, they’re not nearby, achieving clear vision typically involves seeking external assistance. This is the realm of myopics, individuals grappling with myopia or nearsightedness.

What is Myopia?

Nearsightedness, also known as myopia in medical terms, refers to a vision condition where individuals can perceive nearby objects clearly, but distant objects appear blurry. This condition arises when the eyeball is excessively elongated or when the cornea, the eye’s transparent front surface, is excessively curved.

A concerning finding reveals that, as per a study released in 2021, over fifty percent of the global population is projected to develop myopia by the year 2050.

“Eyes have a ‘stop signal’ so that they grow proportionally with the head. The signal, however, can get interrupted by genetic and environmental factors. That leads to our eyeballs growing a bit too much, making them too big for the optics (lens and cornea). This mismatch between the eyeballs and optics leads to far-off objects looking out of focus,” Gregory Schwartz, an associate professor at the Departments of Ophthalmology and Neuroscience at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, explained while speaking to Reader’s Digest India.

How common is Myopia?

Myopia is prevalent, with over 40% of individuals in the U.S. estimated to be nearsighted. This figure is increasing rapidly, particularly among school-aged children, and eye specialists anticipate this trend to persist in the future. About one in four parents has a child who experiences some level of nearsightedness. Certain eye specialists suggest that excessive engagement in close-up activities like reading or using smartphones and computers may heighten the risk of myopia development in children.

 The importance of natural light

 We all know the importance of natural sunlight, it is the very source that keeps all the survival on this planet intact. Sunlight offers numerous benefits, serving as a powerful source of vitamins and playing a crucial role in maintaining the health of our eyes.

According to experts, exposure to natural light plays a crucial role in promoting healthy eye development. A study published in JAMA Ophthalmology in 2017 highlighted a connection between higher UVB exposure and a reduced incidence of myopia, particularly during adolescence and early adulthood.

 Screen time needs to decrease

With technological advancements, access to mobile phones and laptops has become increasingly convenient, especially for children. Nowadays, when children become agitated or start crying, many modern parents rely on their devices to soothe the situation and keep their kids occupied. Gradually, these devices have become their primary source of entertainment.

“Both children and adults are spending less time outdoors. The primary source of entertainment for many individuals now revolves around digital screens, which are predominantly used indoors rather than outdoors. This shift in lifestyle preferences towards indoor activities has contributed to reduced outdoor time among the population,” says Dr Faizah Shahreer Ahmad, an ophthalmologist and fellow with Sightsavers India.

While it’s important to encourage children and young adults to engage in outdoor activities, equal emphasis should be placed on restricting screen time and other close-up tasks.

“Excessive screen time, especially among younger individuals, may strain the eyes due to prolonged near-work activities,” says Dr Arun.

Preventive steps

To avoid myopia in both adults and children, eye specialists suggest the following:

  • Promoting outdoor activities
  • Restricting screen time
  • Taking frequent breaks from close-up tasks, such as reading
  • Maintaining a distance of at least one meter while reading
  • Ensuring proper lighting during reading and computer usage

While these steps are important, the key to tackling myopia lies in making bigger changes to our habits over time. It’s vital to prioritize spending more time connecting with nature and reducing our reliance on the convenient devices we’re so attached to. As per experts, individuals with myopia face an increased risk of developing eye conditions as they grow older, such as glaucoma, early cataracts, and macular degeneration. Those affected should wear their glasses or contact lenses and undergo regular eye examinations.

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