A new scientific study has indicated that children who spend too much time indoors may be putting their eyesight at risk for short-sightedness (myopia).
The study, conducted by the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, discovered that a specific cell in the retina may dysfunction if insufficient natural light is received. Scientists believe that the cell dysfunction may cause myopia.
Children who spend too much time indoors are likely to lack sufficient natural light. This could lead them to be prone to myopia, the study suggests.
The Newly-Discovered Retinal Cell
The newly-detected cell is highly sensitive to light, and appears to control how the eye grows and develops. If the cell dysfunctions, it can cause the eye to grow for too long. In this case, images fail to focus on the retina, leading to myopia. Corrective glasses or contact lenses will then be required.
“The eye needs to stop growing at precisely the right time during childhood.” ~ Professor Greg Schwartz
Study lead Professor Greg Schwartz has named the new cell, ‘ON Delayed’. This is a reference to the fact that the cell displays slow response rates to increasing light intensity. The study also found that the new cell was unique among many other retinal cell types, due to its precise sensitivity to whether an image was in focus or not.
Why Excessive Indoor Light Can Lead to Myopia in Children
The prevalent red/green contrast found in typical indoor lighting conditions, may cause the ‘ON Delayed’ cell to be overstimulated, the study found. Furthermore, researchers believe this overstimulation could lead to unnecessary growth of the eye – and subsequent myopia.
While it’s not yet clear exactly how much natural light a child needs, estimates reveal that approximately 40 percent of UK adults presently suffer from myopia.
It’s possible that technological changes have led to children spending more time indoors than previous generations did.
For example, computer games and online videos have changed the way that most children now spend their playtime. Before computers, children often spent a significant amount of their time outdoors playing games such as hopscotch, leapfrog and tag. Nowadays, however, it’s much more common for children to spend the bulk of their time indoors – usually entertained by a TV, computer or mobile phone.
In conclusion, children may currently be spending too much time indoors, and as a consequence, are putting their eyes at risk of development issues.
While myopia is usually correctable through the use of glasses or contact lenses, it would be far better to prevent the onset of the condition in the first place.