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Can environment impact myopia development?

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

The potential impact of environmental factors on health has risen in importance as our understanding has developed in recent years. Our eyes are not immune to this potential impact. One 2019 paper commented that the "eye is the most vulnerable organ to atmospheric and environmental insults" as it listed a host of factors which could affect the eyes, including pollutants, chemicals, humidity, and UV radiation.[1]

We have also highlighted in other articles how factors such as screen time or time spent outdoors can affect myopia development, particularly in children. Now another review has added to the debate.

A Chinese study of children aged from six to eighteen years old has found that those living in urban areas have a higher likelihood of developing myopia than those living in rural areas.[2]

Whilst the study found the reverse true for hyperopia or long-sightedness, no difference was found between urban and rural children regarding astigmatism. Interestingly, the study identified that different factors influenced the likelihood of myopia developing, depending on whether the children were in rural or urban settings. The researchers believe this could open up the pathway for targeted myopia prevention strategies that consider the child's immediate environment and likely risk factors.

One interesting likelihood is that children's lifestyles will vary depending on where they live. Children growing up in inner city areas, for example, are far less likely to spend a lot of time outdoors, including doing sports.

If you're a parent whose child has been diagnosed with myopia or if they are struggling with their distance vision, we hope you found MyopiaFocus helpful. Please join our community or sign our petition to get the government and NHS to recognise myopia as an ocular disease/severe ocular condition and fund myopia management for children.

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