Nearsightedness, or myopia, is a vision problem affecting up to 40% of Americans. This problem allows the sufferer to see items nearby clearly but causes objects at a distance to be blurry.
Unfortunately, a definitive cause for nearsightedness has not yet been discovered; however, a new theory is emerging that spending too much time indoors is the culprit to blame. The science journal Nature notes,
“We had these children who were doing both activities at very high levels and they didn’t become myopic,” says [researcher Kathryn] Rose. Close work might still have some effect, but what seemed to matter most was the eye’s exposure to bright light.” (hat tip to here for the source)
Of course, this begs the question as to why time specifically spent outside, regardless of the activity, impacts eye site. Dr. Mercola writes,
“Spending time outdoors offers exposure to multiple types of light, including ultraviolet B rays (UVB, which leads to the production of vitamin D) and visible bright light.
“Research shows that people with nearsightedness have lower blood levels of vitamin D, which supports the function of muscle tissue around the lens in your eye[…].
“When exposed to outdoor light, for instance, cells in your retina trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that slows down growth of the eye and perhaps stops the elongation of the eye during development.”
So, what steps can you take to both protect your eyesight and improve your eyesight if you are already suffering from nearsightedness?
For children, Ian Morgan of the Australia National University recommends at least three hours per day of outside sunlight exposure. For adults, avoid wearing sunglasses. Consider wearing a visor or hat that allows sunlight access to your eyes while protecting your face and eyes from direct exposure.
Dr. Mercola also recommends avoiding sugary foods and refined starches in your diet. He writes,
“The reason for this is because high insulin levels from excess carbohydrates can disturb the delicate choreography that normally coordinates eyeball lengthening and lens growth. And if the eyeball grows too long, the lens can no longer flatten itself enough to focus a sharp image on the retina. Hunter-gatherer diets are typically characterized by high levels of protein, moderate levels of fat, and low levels of carbohydrates compared to modern western diets.”
In a nutshell, spend more time outside and avoid sugars and refined carbohydrates to improve both nearsightedness and overall eye health. You will be glad that you did!