Meta-analysis of 51 clinical trials and studies has revealed that outdoor play can help to protect eye health in children.
It has long been theorised by the eyecare community that spending time outdoors can help to protect against both the development and progression of myopia. This new research aimed to better understand previous studies and determine whether outdoor play could protect the eye health of our children.
Here, we will look at what the study revealed, as well as discuss what myopia is and the current treatment options available for your child’s eyes.
What did the new study reveal?
The study carried out by researchers in China, analysed 51 studies and clinical trials. It revealed that children who spend around 8.9 hours playing outdoors each week, were 50% less likely to develop myopia.
Interestingly, the study also found that younger children benefitted more from time spent outdoors. For example, children who are six years old will experience greater eye protection from playing outdoors than 11–12-year-old children. It is theorised that younger children may be at a crucial stage in their development leaving them more susceptible to environmental ocular changes.
It is worth noting that these results are based on children who do not currently have myopia. For already myopic eyes, the study didn’t provide evidence whether increased time spent outdoors could slow down the progression of the condition.
Limitations were identified within the meta-analysis. A total of 17 studies were carried out in East Asian countries. These were countries where myopia is most common. Other studies came from the USA, UK, Turkey, and Australia.
What is myopia?
Myopia is also referred to as near-sightedness. The common condition means that you can clearly see any objects in front of you, but they become blurry as they are moved further away. It is thought to develop due to light rays bending incorrectly due to the shape of the eye. This in turn causes images to focus in front of your retina, rather than onto it directly.
The condition is typically detected in childhood, though it can also develop gradually during adolescence. The main symptoms of myopia include:
- Blurred distance vision
- Squinting to see clearly
- Eye strain or fatigue
If you suspect your child may have myopia, an eye examination can be carried out to detect the condition.
Treatment options available for myopia
Spectacles or contact lenses which correct the myopia are used to improve vision. We know that myopia progresses throughout childhood and spectacles are updated as it does so. Emerging interventions to slow down the progression of myopia are now available. These include special spectacle lenses and contact lenses (hard and soft) and low concentration atropine eye drops. These can be used once a day, ideally before bedtime, and they are known to slow down the progression of the condition.