The secret to beating short-sightedness in children

The secret to beating short-sightedness in childrenIncreasing exposure to outdoor light is the key to reducing the myopia (short-sightedness) epidemic in children, according to ground-breaking new research by Australian optometrists.

Optometrist and lead researcher on the project, Associate Professor Scott Read, who is the director of research at QUT’s School of Optometry and Vision Science, said that children need to spend more than an hour and preferably at least two hours a day outside to help prevent myopia from developing and progressing.

Assoc. Prof. Read explains it was not ‘near work’ on computer and other screens causing myopia, but a lack of adequate outdoor light. While screens are contributing to children spending more time indoors than in previous years, the research shows they are not the direct cause of the increased incidence of myopia.

“Optometrists need to make their patients aware that less than 60 minutes’ exposure to light outdoors per day is a risk factor for myopia,” he said. “It looks like even for those with myopia already, increasing time outside is likely to reduce progression.”

President of Optometry Australia, Kate Gifford said “this new finding is of significant importance in our endeavour to mitigate the growing rate of myopia in children.”

In February, it was announced that half the world’s population will be short-sighted by 2050 with many at risk of blindness. The global study, published by the Brien Holden Vision Institute, forecasts that 10 per cent of the world’s population will be at risk of blindness by 2050 if steps aren’t taken to stop myopia turning into high myopia (requiring glasses with a prescription of minus 5 or stronger).

The QUT study measured children’s eye growth via study participants wearing wristwatch light sensors to record light exposure and physical activity for a fortnight during warmer then colder months to give an overall measurement of their typical light exposure.

“Children exposed to the least outdoor light had faster eye growth and hence faster myopia progression,” Professor Read said.

“The work of Scott Read and his colleagues is an exciting development and the onus is now on optometrists to help spread the message of the one-hour-a-day prescription of outdoor light,” Mrs Gifford said.

For more information on optometry services in Australia, including finding your local optometrist, visit www.optometrists.asn.au

Prepared by a press release from Optometry Australia

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Beware of novelty contact lenses this Halloween

Write Way to HealthAs Halloween approaches some people may be considering the use of novelty contact lenses to add some extra drama to their scary costume. But Optometry Australia is warning that non-prescription accessory lenses can be dangerous and lead to significant, long-term eye damage.

 

The peak professional body for optometrists advises that buying novelty lenses online or over the counter can lead to eye infections, damage, and even permanent blindness.

Optometry Australia’s resident optometrist Luke Arundel strongly recommends seeking professional guidance before using contact lenses.

“The surface of the eye is extremely delicate and wearing non-prescribed novelty contact lenses, particularly those from a dubious source, could cause eye damage ranging from mild infections to sight-threatening conditions such as corneal scarring and even blindness,” he said.

“Contact lenses are not ‘one size fits all’. If people want to enhance their Halloween look with fancy dress lenses, it is important to make sure the lenses are prescribed by an optometrist who will measure each eye to properly fit the lenses and evaluate how the eye responds to contact lens wear using a microscope.

“The optometrist will then instruct them on appropriate insertion and removal techniques and correct contact lens care to minimise the risk of irreversible eye damage,” he said.

Suppliers of playfully packaged novelty contact lenses often target unsuspecting teenagers and young adults who are usually unaware of the dangers associated with buying contact lenses without a prescription and of the need for proper eye care.

Write Way to Health“Many people are using contacts for the first time when they buy them for a costume and they often don’t know how to insert and remove the lenses safely. This further increases the risk of scratching or damaging the eye,” said Mr Arundel.

A recent study also found that cosmetic contact lenses available online often circumvent regulation from safety agencies such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and can contain harmful chemicals such as chlorine, which can seep from the colourants in the lens to cause toxicity problems for the eyes. [i]

Jessica Chi, National President of the Cornea and Contact Lens Society of Australia, said that contact lenses provide an effective and safe method of vision correction when prescribed properly by an optometrist, but that novelty lenses require the same high level of care to be worn safely.

She recommends the following tips for safe wear of contact lenses at Halloween (or any time of the year):

  • Have contact lenses properly fitted at an optometrist who will also instruct you on correct insertion, removal and cleaning of lenses.
  • Always wash hands before touching contacts and never store or clean contacts with tap water.
  • Don’t sleep in contact lenses unless advised it is safe to do so by your optometrist.
  • If your eyes become red, sensitive to light, painful, gunky or your vision becomes blurred remove lenses and see an optometrist ASAP.

For more information on optometry services in Australia, including finding your local optometrist, visit www.optometry.org.au

Based on a Press Release from Optometry Australia, 20/10/15