Make the most of the great outdoors to help your eye health

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Spending less time on screens and more time playing outside can help delay the progression of an eye condition that threatens to affect half of the world’s population by 2050 – according to a Northampton optometrist.

Myopia, also known as short-sightedness, is an eye condition that results in poor or blurred vision when viewing in the distance.

Speaking as part of Myopia Awareness Week, which runs this week, Brian Tompkins of TK&S Optometrists in Kingsley Road, Northampton, has urged parents to encourage their children to swap mobile phones and video games for outdoor activities to help keep their vision healthier for longer.

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He said: “In myopic eyes, the length of the eyeball is often longer than it should be, causing images of distant objects to be focused ‘in front of’ rather than ‘on’ the light sensitive layer of the eye known as the retina.

Brian Tompkins is urging parents to encourage their children to spend more time outdoorsBrian Tompkins is urging parents to encourage their children to spend more time outdoors
Brian Tompkins is urging parents to encourage their children to spend more time outdoors

“Myopia can increase the risk of several eye conditions such as retinal detachment or myopic maculopathy that could eventually result in visual impairment or even blindness.

“Current research indicates that both genetics – if one of your parents has myopia, you are three times more likely to develop it – and environmental factors determine whether a child will be myopic. They also play a role in the progression of myopia.

“However, while we cannot change their genetics, it is useful to know that environment plays a significant role in myopia and therefore, everyone can use some simple strategies to help protect their vision both now and into the future.”

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An increase in time outdoors of about two hours per day, which helps children use their full range of vision, significantly reduces the risk of developing myopia while lots of near vision work without a break can increase the likelihood of developing the condition.

Parents are advised to encourage children to take regular breaks - for every 20 minutes spent on near tasks, take a break for 20 seconds gazing into the distance (20 feet or six metres away).

The TK&S team, including award-winning optometrists Dr Keyur Patel and binocular vision specialist Debra Grant, have been at the forefront of myopia management techniques in the UK, offering a wide range of treatment pathways including spectacles and contact lenses.

Early diagnosis and intervention is key to slowing the progression of myopia, with regular eye examinations by an eye care professional recommended.

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