What is the relationship between UV rays and myopia? – Credihealth Blog


Introduction

In countries with temperate climates, people would generally experience summertime with long hours of sun in the sky. If you experience summer where you live, you might often slab on sunblock to protect your skin from too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Sometimes you might try to avoid the sun altogether.

Yet, spending time outdoors under the sun might actually enhance vision and reduce myopia [1]. 

What is myopia? 

Myopia, also known as near-sightedness, is a refractive error that affects a person’s ability to see objects at a distance. Myopia occurs when the axial length of the eye becomes too long, therefore resulting in light falling short of the retina. Such a condition leads to blurred vision when looking at objects in the distance. Some symptoms of myopia include headaches, squinting to focus on objects at a distance, blurred vision of objects at a long distance. 

(Exposure to too much UV rays can damage one’s eyes.) 

Ultraviolet Rays 

UVA, UVB and UVC are the 3 different kinds of ultraviolet (UV) rays that have been linked to potential skin and eye harm [2] . Exposure to UVB (particularly during the teenage years and in adulthood) can defend your eyes from myopia. 

(Wearing shades can protect one’s eyes from UV rays) 

A JAMA study involving more than 3,000 men and women with an average age of 72 was conducted to examine the relationship between myopia and UV exposure [3]. Out of these participants, 371 had myopia. Researchers interviewed participants about their health, behaviour and overall lifestyle to gauge a pattern with regards to UVB exposure. The researchers concluded that those participants who had greatest levels of UVB exposure at a younger age were 30% less likely to become near-sighted. Those who had more schooling, suggesting they most likely spent time indoors studying, had an escalated risk of myopia. Moreover, violet light is difficult to come by indoors as most indoor lights are LED powered and do not transmit violet light. From the study,there is an association between UVB exposure and 30% less risk of myopia and increased risk of myopia associated with long time spent studying indoors.

That being said, bear in mind that although this study suggests an eye health benefit to UVB exposure in terms of reduced myopia risks, it does not necessarily mean that UVB exposure or overexposure cannot harm your eyes or your overall health. There are potential adverse effects due to overexposure to the sun. An example of a UV-related eye disorder would be cataracts. Cataracts happen when the eye lens lose their transparency, leading to blurred or clouded vision. Studies have revealed that UV radiation increases the likelihood of certain cataracts [4]. UV overexposure can even lead to pterygium (tissue growth that can block vision) and macular degeneration (eye condition that affects clear central vision). 

Thus adequate eye protection in the form of sunglasses, contact lenses and glasses that offer UV protection is essential. Also, avoid going outdoors in the middle of the day when sun exposure is intense, to protect yourself from eye and skin related diseases.  

How can you slow down or stop myopia from progressing? 

Besides spending time outdoors, those in their teens and early adult years can adopt the following measures to prevent myopia from worsening and keeping myopia under control.

Orthokeratology

Orthokeratology, or ortho-k, is the use of purposefully designed and fitted contact lenses to temporarily reshape the cornea to improve vision. In this process, contact lenses are worn daily for several hours each time, usually overnight while you sleep. Once your eye curvature evens out, wear the lenses less frequently. The moment you stop this treatment, your eyes return to their former shape. These contact lenses  purportedly slow down the near-sighted eyeball from lengthening, hence reducing myopia [5]. 

Atropine Eye Drops

These eye drops have been shown to dramatically reduce myopia progression in children. Trial studies revealed that atropine drops delayed myopia from developing among children by 50 to 60% [6]. Nonetheless, because myopia is not curable so far, children who use such atropine drops might still need to wear contact lenses or eyeglasses. 

Regulate Screen Time

Preliminary studies depict that near work activities, like using a phone or computer, are linked to myopia [7]. Therefore, it is important to regulate your screen time and that of your child in order to prevent myopia from worsening.  While you cannot deprive ourselves and your child of screen time altogether as our society is becoming increasingly digitised, you can manage screen time and assist your child in doing so. 

Consider downloading parental control apps like the piano app into your child’s devices. The planoApp is a science-based parental control app that helps to remind your child to take regular eye breaks every 30 minutes and to place his or her phone at a safe distance, at least 30 centimetres away from the eyes. Furthermore, the app reminds your child to ensure correct lighting conditions while using a digital device. When your child abides by all the prompts in the app, points can be earned to request for outdoor activities from the planoShop.

Disclaimer: The statements, opinions, and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of Credihealth and the editor(s). 

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