Early visual exposure influences myopia
Myopia or shortsightedness is one of the most common refractive errors. Apart from being genetically determined, increasing body of evidence shows that a child's early exposure to visual media may have a major role to play in the onset of myopia.
In a report on myopia from the Department of Ophthalmology, University of California, the author quotes that myopia is one of the leading causes of loss of vision throughout the world and its prevalence is increasing. The incidence of myopia also seems to change according to the ethnicity of an individual with more Asians reporting shortsightedness than the Western population.
Although myopia is known to have a genetic cause and more children whose parents are myopic are likely to be shortsighted, it is the changes caused in the eyes during a child's formative years that may be the cause of the increasing number of children with weak eyes. Prolonged reading, exposure to long hours on the computer and prolonged near work increases the load on the eye thus causing myopia. It is more commonly seen in people whose work requires them to spend long hours reading or doing work with minute objects like editors, lawyers, physicians etc. Students also commonly develop this anomaly during their early years.
The report places children with myopic parents at a double disadvantage since because of having a genetic tendency towards the condition, these children are more likely to become myopic than children whose parents are not. Though modern medicine offers corrective measures for myopia in the form of spectacles, contact lenses and surgery, pathological cases cannot be totally prevented though its progression can be slowed down. Contact lenses have been seen to be more effective in slowing down the progression of myopia than spectacles.
Increasing awareness among the lay public has and can go a long way in preventing the progression of this condition to levels from where it cannot be retrieved. Adequate lighting while reading or working, monitoring of time spent on the computer or television and early corrective measures taken by parents helps in arresting this condition and possibly correcting it.
BMJ 2002, Vol. 324
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